Ottawa

Strange bedfellows: Air Canada places woman, younger man in single hotel room, family says

An Ottawa woman is flabbergasted after her mother, who missed a connecting flight with Air Canada last week, was told to share a single hotel room with a perfect stranger.

71-year-old passenger's daughter has filed formal complaint with airline

Jerryne Mahele Nyota wants a formal apology from Air Canada after she says her mother was told to share a hotel room with a stranger. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Latest

  • After this story was published, Air Canada said an error was made due to a misunderstanding.
  • Air Canada said it has followed up to apologize, and has offered the family $250.

An Ottawa woman is flabbergasted after her mother, who missed a connecting flight with Air Canada last week, was told to share a single hotel room with a perfect stranger. 

Jerryne Mahele Nyota said her 71-year-old mother, Elizabeth Coffi Tabu, was set to fly home to France from Ottawa on Friday, July 19, by grabbing a connecting flight in Montreal. But a delay on her first flight from Ottawa caused Tabu to miss the connecting flight.

An Air Canada agent told her and another passenger — a man half Tabu's age whom she didn't know — that there was only one hotel room available.

Tabu told CBC News that the agent gave them one hotel voucher and told them they would have to share a room. When they arrived at the hotel, the room only had one bed, she said.

Tabu's daughter, Mahele Nyota, said: "The decision was he would be sleeping on the sofa [bed] and my mom in the bed.

"I told her, 'No, you don't sleep with a total stranger. No, don't do that. Stay there and I'm going to do what I can to find a solution.'"

Delays in Ottawa forced Elizabeth Coffi Tabu to miss a connecting flight in Montreal. She couldn't get another until the following day. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Passengers both 'shocked'

Mahele Nyota said that after trying unsuccessfully to get on an Air France flight, her mother and the man were told they would have to stay the night and fly the following day.

"The guy was also shocked. He said, 'But I don't know her,' [and] my mom said, 'I don't know the guy,'" Mahele Nyota said.

The ordeal was an unwelcome ending to what had been a lovely trip for her mother, Mahele Nyota said. She had been in Ottawa for about a month visiting her daughter and grandchildren, a trip she makes almost every year and always through Air Canada.

This year, however, she was using a wheelchair at the airport because she's recovering from cancer treatment. Mahele Nyota said that contributed to her mother missing the flight.

Jerryne Mahele Nyota says her mother missed a connecting flight home to France and had to stay in Montreal overnight. She says Air Canada offered her mother a hotel room — but told her she'd have to share it with a complete stranger. 1:06

Concern for vulnerable passengers

After a lengthy phone call with Air Canada, Mahele Nyota said the airline managed to find her mother a room at another hotel, but she's concerned about what could have happened if she hadn't  intervened.

Now, she's worried about other vulnerable passengers being treated in the same manner and said she has filed a formal complaint with the airline.

Mahele Nyota said Air Canada did offer her mother a seat with more leg room for the following day and $20 in food vouchers, but she wants a formal apology.

"Now [my mother is] realizing, how is it possible? You know? And she said, 'It's not fair, it's not fair, they never gave me another option,'" Mahele Nyota said.

An Ottawa woman is shocked after she says Air Canada told her mother she would have to share a hotel room with a complete stranger after missing a connecting flight. 9:23

Air Canada said it's looking into the matter to see what might have caused the confusion. In a written statement, a spokesperson said "it is not our policy to ask passengers to share a room."

The airline said the hotel did provide Tabu with a room, but Mehele Nyota said that room was offered only at a fee, and the family didn't trust that they would be compensated by Air Canada.

Ariël Roy, a lawyer at Flight Claim, a law firm that defends passenger rights, is encouraging the family to stay in touch with the airline to fight for compensation. 

"One time is one time too many. It's a really unfortunate situation that the lady has been put in," Roy said.