Family blasts Air Canada, Aeroplan for poor response to delays after Fla. shooting

A Thornhill, Ont., family says they’re stuck in the middle of a bureaucratic tug of war between Air Canada and Aeroplan — alleging neither took responsibility in helping them get home after they were trapped in Florida following the mass shooting in Fort Lauderdale on Friday.

Andrew and Rachel Laderman had planned to return home that day with their two-year-old son, Lev, after spending two weeks visiting family, the beach and Disney World over the holidays. 

‘They were both going back-and-forth blaming each other.’
– Rachel Laderman

The family’s 11 a.m. flight had been delayed — and then they heard gunshots, the beginning of the chaos that would leave five people dead and eight others seriously injured.

The Ladermans spent the next 10 hours being shuffled between the tarmac and the terminal.

During that time, they allege that nobody from Air Canada could be found. Meanwhile, representatives from Delta Airlines began handing out vouchers to customers by late afternoon to explain how to rebook their travel arrangements, Rachel Laderman alleges.

Airport Shooting-Florida

Thousands of people say they were on lockdown at the airport for hours after the shooting Friday. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via Associated Press)

The Ladermans say they tried calling Air Canada while they were 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, Rachel Laderman said — and that’s when she says she was told that because the family booked their tickets using Aeroplan points, they would have to deal with the rewards program instead.

But when she called Aeroplan, they told her that she had to go through the airline, Rachel Laderman alleges.

“So they were both going back and forth blaming each other,” she said. “Nobody wanted to help us.”

And when contacted Tuesday, Aeroplan referred CBC Toronto to Air Canada. But Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman with the airline, said that working with Aeroplan was what the family should have done. 

Later in the day, an Aeroplan spokeswoman got back in touch, saying the company was still trying to get in touch with 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.

2-week wait

Aeroplan did offer to rebook the Ladermans on another flight, but said that the next one from Fort Lauderdale wouldn’t be for two weeks, the family alleges.  There were flights out of Tampa to Toronto, but Rachel Laderman says Aeroplan told her that the shortest wait would be between five and seven days.

The family couldn’t afford to take another week of vacation, they said. Andrew Laderman is 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, he said.

Instead, Aeroplan offered to refund the family their points. 

But that meant the Ladermans still had to find a flight home. Their insurance wouldn’t cover cancellations in cases where travel is booked through a rewards program, Rachel Laderman says.

Laderman family 2

The Laderman family spends two weeks on vacation each year; Andrew Laderman owns an optical business and said he can’t afford to be away from it for any longer. (Submitted: Rachel Laderman)

Allegations of price gouging

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.”

While Rachel Laderman considered renting a car, neither wanted to drive for several days with a toddler. 

Instead, they found an American Airlines flight leaving Miami Tuesday night. It cost them more than $1,800 for three tickets.

‘High demand and low capacity’

The family says they have yet to hear back from Air Canada after leaving voice messages and being asked by the airline to send them a direct message through social media.

Fitzpatrick said that “it is regrettable” that the airline couldn’t reach the family in a “timely manner” through social media, but he noted that 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 low capacity.”

The Ladermans, meanwhile, are keeping their fingers crossed that the storm in Toronto doesn’t delay their flight again.

They just want to get home, they say.

“And shovel some snow,” Andrew says, laughing.

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