After having limited success with customer service on the phone, Doyle’s wife, Shanna, inquired about the conspicuously absent seat with a company representative at the airport. She was told the flight had been oversold and their son, Cole, was now deprived a seat.
"I was told that while, yes, we could give up our seat, there would be no guarantee that the seat would go to my son," she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The airline explained that her son’s seat would likely be given to a more frequent flyer if it became available.
Not to be deterred from their holiday plans, the father Brett drove two hours with his son to Moncton Airport and tried to board a flight to Montreal, where they’d meet the plane to eventually take them to Costa Rica. The flight out of Moncton was cancelled, however, so the pair drove another two hours to Nova Scotia, where they eventually boarded a flight after staying overnight in a hotel.
The extra cost of getting their son to Costa Rica neared $1000 (CAD), the Doyle family estimates. The emotional toll and stress on the family’s 10-year-old son, however, sounds like far worse: "I'm like crying in the back seat, and I don't have a plane. Like, how do I get to where I'm going? I don't know if I'm even going to make it with my family," Cole Doyle told the CBC. Brett Doyle confirmed to the Sun that his family had been offered a $2,500 voucher that expires in one year, and that the airline may cover the additional cost of the family’s trip.
Air Canada’s miniature fiasco follows last week’s United Airlines debacle, in which 69-year-old passenger David Dao was forcibly dragged from an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville. The visceral footage of that episode, which snowballed on social media and caused a PR nightmare for United, sent the company’s stock into free fall. After United CEO Oscar Munoz ordered a “thorough examination” of company procedures, the carrier changed its policy for overbooked flights.
In light of all this, certain competitors have increased the compensation offered to passengers who voluntarily leave overbooked flights.