British Columbia

90-year-old in wheelchair forgotten by airlines at Calgary airport

A 90-year-old airline passenger says she was twice forgotten and left to fend for herself in a wheelchair during a stopover at Calgary International Airport.

Woman says she flagged down a WestJet employee after Air Canada and United failed to get her on her flight

Mary Ellen Fallis, shown with her great-granddaughter in Kelowna, was twice left to fend for herself after being forgotten by airline staff at Calgary International Airport. (Landon Bradshaw)

A 90-year-old airline passenger in a wheelchair says she was twice forgotten by airline staff during a stopover at Calgary International Airport.

Mary Ellen Fallis was heading back to Texas Saturday after visiting her grandson and his family in Kelowna, B.C. She arrived at Calgary International Airport on an Air Canada flight to transfer to a United Airlines flight home.

A Texas senior in a wheelchair says she was twice forgotten and left to fend for herself by airlines at Calgary International Airport on Saturday. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

An Air Canada employee took her in a wheelchair to a transfer point between airlines, and Fallis said she was told to wait there for someone from United Airlines to take her to her next flight.

"There was no indication that this was a transferring spot, but I trusted the Air Canada lady, and she said United would be there, but they didn't come," Fallis said Tuesday.

Rescued by WestJet employee

Fallis said she eventually managed to flag down a WestJet employee for help, and that's when she learned she'd missed her flight.

Eventually, United Airlines booked her on another flight to Houston and an Air Canada employee escorted her to the gate, she said.

But soon after, Fallis said, there was a gate change, and she was again forgotten and left on her own to sort things out.

"It was very frustrating that day and very exhausting," she said.

In a statement, Air Canada said it recognizes the inconveniences Fallis encountered at the airport. In a separate statement, United said the airline refunded and rebooked her flight.

Both airlines say they are working together to improve procedures for wheelchair transfers.

Fallis confirmed she eventually made it home to Houston, but said she has vowed not to fly with United again or travel through Calgary when she comes to visit her family in Canada.

The incident comes after both Air Canada and United have faced a number of public relations challenges over the treatment of passengers.

The federal government has promised to bring in a passengers' bill of rights following recent public incidents.