Members of a Thornhill, Ont., family stuck in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after Friday's deadly airport shooting are finally back home, after alleging they were in the middle of a bureaucratic tug of war between Air Canada and Aeroplan when neither took responsibility for them being left stranded.
Andrew and Rachel Laderman, who along with their two-year-old son Lev were visiting family, the beach and Disney World in Orlando over the holidays, said they ended up paying more than $1,800 total to get them all on an American Airlines flight home Tuesday night.
'They were both going back and forth blaming each other.' - Rachel Laderman
Their 11 a.m. flight Friday had been delayed, and then they heard gunshots. In the end, five people died and several were seriously wounded.
The Ladermans said they spent the next 10 hours being shuffled between the tarmac and the terminal.
They claimed nobody from Air Canada could be found.
The Ladermans say they tried calling Air Canada while the airport was on lockdown, but the wait to speak to an agent was more than three hours. The couple worried they would drain their phones' batteries so they waited until they could leave the terminal, which meant they were unable to call the airline until after midnight.
It took two hours to get through to an agent, Laderman said — and that's when she was told that because the family booked tickets using Aeroplan points, they would have to deal with the rewards program instead.
But when she called Aeroplan, a representative told her she had to go through the airline, Laderman says.
"So they were both going back and forth blaming each other," she said. "Nobody wanted to help us."
When contacted Tuesday, Aeroplan referred CBC Toronto to Air Canada. But Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman with the airline, said the family should have worked with Aeroplan.
Later in the day, an Aeroplan spokeswoman got back in touch and said the company was still trying to get a hold of the Ladermans to understand what happened.
"What I can tell you is that in these types of situations, we want to help get everyone home as quickly and safely as possible, without any added fees," Christa Poole said in an email. "If the member you've spoken to didn't get that experience, that would be a mistake in the significant work to help everyone as quickly as possible, and we're sorry.
After this story was first published, Rachel Laderman said she received a call from an Air Canada representative who apologized and told her that the airline should have rebooked the family since they had already checked in for the flight.
"He said they're looking into the details of our experience with their agents ... to see how and why exactly this went wrong," Laderman wrote to CBC Toronto Wednesday evening.
Aeroplan offered to rebook the Ladermans on another flight, but said the next one from Fort Lauderdale wouldn't be for two weeks, the family said. There were flights out of Tampa to Toronto, but Rachel Laderman said Aeroplan told her that the shortest wait would be between five and seven days.
But Andrew Laderman said he's both the owner and sole employee of an optical store in Toronto, and the business was losing "thousands of dollars a day" while it was closed.
Instead, Aeroplan offered to refund the family their points.
The Ladermans still had to find a flight home, however. Their travel insurance on their credit card wouldn't cover cancellations in cases where travel is booked through a rewards program, said Rachel Laderman.
'Seems like they're gouging everybody'
When they first started looking for another way to get back home, the Ladermans said the cheapest tickets they could find through Air Canada Rouge were $1,300 each for a one-way flight.
"I really don't understand it, because people were flying home and telling us that their flights were empty or that there were tons of seats left," Rachel Laderman said. "It just seems like they're gouging everybody."
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While she considered renting a car, neither wanted to drive for several days with a toddler.
Instead, they found the American Airlines flight, which left Miami on Tuesday night.
The Ladermans did not hear back from Air Canada, after leaving voice messages and being asked by the airline to send them a direct message through social media, until after they got home.
Fitzpatrick said "it is regrettable" that the airline couldn't reach the family in a "timely manner" through social media, but noted Air Canada had received a surge in messages because of travel disruptions caused by the airport shooting.
He also said Air Canada flights leaving Florida last weekend might have been more expensive because of "high demand and limited capacity."