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Mom stopped from boarding Air Canada flight with two infant children

ADRIAN GHOBRIAL | posted Thursday, Jul 27th, 2017

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She was hoping to take her young children to PEI to visit their ailing great grandmother – until a little-known Canadian airline regulation stopped them from boarding their plane.

When Tara Stemkoski’s 81 year-old grandmother was hospitalized with pneumonia in Prince Edward Island, the mother of three knew what she had to do. Stemkoski, who lives near Seoul, South Korea, booked a flight home for herself and her three children – 5-year-old Aria and 3-month-old twins Malcom and Elise.

“You never know when you start getting up into your 80’s how things are going to go down once you get into the hospital,” said Stemkoski.

Her husband who frequently travels for work was unable to join them, so Stemkoski called Air Canada to ensure she was allowed to travel as a single parent with three young kids.

“The agent explained to me that I could only have one lap baby which I fully understand,” Stemkoski told CityNews. “And I would have to book a seat for the additional infant plus my five year old so three seats total four tickets.”

An Air Canada agent helped Stemkoski book the tickets. When another mother alerted Stemkoski that she may run into an issue trying to flying alone with two babies, Tara says she called the airline and was assured a second time that everything would be fine.

But Stemkoski received some devastating news when she arrived at the airport in Seoul with her three children. After a delay of more than an hour, she was informed of a Transport Canada rule that states “No passenger shall be responsible for more than one infant” under the age of two.

In an email to CityNews, Transport Canada explained the rule is in place for safety reasons. “In the event that an evacuation is needed, it is very difficult to safely evacuate an aircraft in a timely manner while holding two or more infants. These rules align with international standards and best practices.”

Stemkoski is wondering why she was able to buy her tickets in the first place.

“It just seems so ridiculous that you could get to the point of having a boarding pass in hand after going through so many people.”

In a statement to CityNews, Air Canada wrote “We’re so sorry we didn’t get this right the first time during the booking process. We’ve been in contact with the family and have made arrangements to make sure they all get to see their Nan as soon as possible.”

Air Canada has since refunded Stemkoski’s tickets and offered to help her reschedule another flight. They’ve also offered her an additional complimentary ticket for a second adult to accompany her.

Air Passenger Rights advocate Gabor Lukacs agrees with the Transport Canada regulations but believes the entire situation could have been averted if Air Canada had asked another passenger to help out with the infants.

“I’m sure there are many people on board the flight who have had kids themselves, who’ve had babies, who would be delighted to help out the mother and simply say, ‘Yes I’m responsible for the baby,’” said Lukacs. “For Air Canada, whose expertise it is to transport passengers, this should be the basics.”

As for Stemkoski, she says one of the hardest parts was delivering the news to her grandmother that she and the kids couldn’t come home to Canada.

“She’s a really great person. I take away the hurt of having to tell her that.”

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