A Saint John man is charging that Air Canada didn't live up to its own policy after his 13-year-old grandson spent a night alone in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport with only a $10 food voucher.

The boy was travelling by himself from Toronto to Saint John on Dec. 27, but when bad weather turned the flight back, he was left at Canada’s largest airport unattended for hours.

"I hate to see someone's child go through what my grandson did," said Steve Cunningham.

While other passengers spent the early morning of Dec. 28 in a hotel, his grandson was given a $10 food voucher and waited alone at Pearson from about 2 a.m. until a 10 a.m. flight to Saint John.

"To me that's not taking care of him, leaving him alone in an airport for that amount of time," he said.

The boy’s mother had dropped him off at the airport and returned home to Niagara Falls, Ont., after the plane departed for New Brunswick. She was unaware the flight had returned to Toronto because of bad weather.

The boy had made the trip from Toronto to Saint John unattended several times in the past and was an experienced traveller.

Airline 'had no indication' of problem

Air Canada does have an optional Unaccompanied Minor service that travellers can purchase for an extra $100. With that service, Air Canada staff will escort a child for the duration of the trip.

What services does Air Canada provide to my child who is travelling alone ... when a flight is cancelled?

With the Unaccompanied Minor service, parents or guardians are asked to remain at the airport until their child's flight has departed. If the flight is cancelled, an agent will remain with your child until you are both reunited.

Youths travelling alone (ages 12 to 17), for whom the parent or guardian has not requested the Unaccompanied Minor service, will be taken care of by our agents. We will also arrange for accommodations, meals and transportation if needed.

— Air Canada website

Cunningham's grandson did not have that service. However, Air Canada's staff are expected to help youth if there is a problem and they are travelling alone.

"Youths travelling alone (ages 12 to 17), for whom the parent or guardian has not requested the Unaccompanied Minor service, will be taken care of by our agents. We will also arrange for accommodations, meals and transportation if needed," according to Air Canada’s agents," the policy says.

Air Canada would not give a detailed comment about the Cunningham case.

However, Isabelle Arthur, an Air Canada spokeswoman, said in an email statement that the airline "had no indication that this child requested additional assistance or that there was any problem."

The Air Canada official also said parents should plan ahead for such situations when their children fly alone.

"Airports do however get very crowded and parents should always, before making the decision to let their children travel alone, take the time to consider how they may react when travel plans are disrupted," she said in an email.

"Some are 'seasoned' travellers able to accept interruptions and adapt, while others do not handle them as well."