Air Canada investigates after mom unable to reach Saskatoon girl, 14, in Budapest
Air Canada put Timea Vajda in hotel room with strangers overnight after plane's 'mechanical issue'
Air Canada is investigating after the mother of a Saskatoon girl travelling alone couldn't get in touch with the 14-year-old when her flight home from Budapest was delayed.
According to the airline, Timea Vajda's mother, Csilla Vajda, contacted the airline Sept. 4 after the Aug. 20 flight was delayed due to a "mechanical issue." The girl had also arrived at the airport after travelling on a bus from Romania, an Air Canada spokesperson said in a statement.
Vajda told CBC she at first had trouble getting in touch with her daughter, and only learned of the delay after the teen contacted her on Skype.
"Nobody was able to give me any information of where she was at or who she left with," said Vajda.
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The cancelled flight left Timea sharing a hotel room with strangers overnight because there weren't enough rooms for everyone, her mother said. Timea boarded a flight home the following day.
Her mother called each number listed on the Air Canada website for more information after she couldn't get in touch with her daughter, but no one could tell her Timea's whereabouts.
Timea finally reached her mother by text message when she found a Wi-Fi connection.
In an email to CBC, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said that had Timea been enrolled in Air Canada's Unaccompanied Minor program, they could have better supervised her journey.
"Due to a mechanical issue, the return flight from Budapest Aug. 20 was delayed and customers had to be placed in hotels overnight," the statement said.
"Our agents in Budapest made efforts to accommodate the child, and we are still investigating the full sequence of events that occurred after the child arrived alone at the airport on a bus from Romania. We remain in touch with the girl's mother since she first contacted us Sept. 4 to address this issue."
However, Vajda says her daughter's ticket was clearly marked with the words "unaccompanied minor."
Air Canada's website says that Unaccompanied Minor service can be purchased for a child travelling on a non-stop flight but not for connecting flights or code-share flights. Timea's flight from Budapest to Saskatoon connected in Toronto.
The website also states that for unaccompanied youths, the airline will arrange accommodation, meals and transportation if needed.
Air Canada said it will stay in touch with Csilla Vajda.
An air passenger advocate called the situation egregious.
"Sending her to stay with complete strangers, now that's a new low. I have never heard anything like that before. And I can tell you I'm from Hungary originally," said Gabor Lukacs, an advocate from Air Passenger Rights.
With files from Jennifer Quesnel