Air Canada must “come up with a satisfactory answer and appropriate compensation” for ordering a retired British couple off a flight: so says 71-year-old Richard Brailey, who was ejected from a transatlantic flight in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Mr Brailey and his wife Patricia, 66, were at the end of a three-week trip around Canada. They were on board the delayed Air Canada flight AC866 from Montreal to London Heathrow – sitting in their assigned economy class seats, wearing masks in accordance with Canadian law, and had not been drinking.
Armed police and airline staff boarded the plane to offload more than 20 passengers for what Air Canada later said “was related to non-compliance with Canadian government mask regulations, Canadian Aviation Regulations, as well as directives of our crew”.
Speaking at his home in Cuffley, Hertfordshire, Mr Brailey said he and his wife were among a group of passengers ordered off the plane for no apparent reason. Some travellers were woken up to be offloaded.
“I need to know who made the instruction,” he told The Independent.
“I asked to see the captain and that wasn’t possible.” The couple’s baggage was left on board the plane and flown to Heathrow. The plane eventually departed over three hours late, but made up time en route and arrived two hours 45 minutes behind schedule.
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Brailey were led away to begin the long process of re-entering Canada.
Having already officially exited the country, they had to re-apply for admission.
“By the time we cleared passport control, it was 2am,” Mr Brailey said.
Air Canada refused to provide a hotel and told them they could not travel for the next 24 hours on its services.
The couple spent the night at the airport, while their son booked them on an Air Transat flight that evening from Montreal to London Gatwick – at a cost of £1,300.
But Air Canada had a change of heart and booked them to travel via New York, where they could board a United flight to Heathrow.
The couple did not have the required “Esta” – the US online travel permit – for entering America.
Airline staff told them, incorrectly, that it was unnecessary for international transit in New York. Fortunately Mrs Brailey researched the subject and found that an Esta was required, and they successfully applied.
They finally returned almost 24 hours late, having been unable to look after their grandson on Tuesday as planned.
At his home, Mr Brailey said: “Everyone treated us as though we were completely out of order.
“Air Canada certainly need to review the situation and come up with a truthful explanation because I’ve got a funny feeling that someone was on a power trip and it all went wrong.
“Something has gone badly wrong. How they could agree, between all the people involved, that they took off people that were asleep, and in our 70s?
“The manager I spoke to said, ‘We don’t get many situations like this.’ And I said to her: ‘Well, if you did, Air Canada wouldn’t be in business’.
“Air Canada needs to resolve this – come up with some truthful facts and compensate everyone who was affected.
“We’re retired but we had commitments and we needed to get back.
“Air Canada need to come up with a satisfactory answer and appropriate compensation.”
Air Canada has so far declined an invitation from The Independent to respond directly to Mr Brailey’s request.
Its previous statement read:“Our general policy is to not discuss incidents of disruptive behaviour onboard our aircraft, but we can confirm the deplaning of passengers from flight AC866 on 20 June [the original day of the flight] was related to non-compliance with Canadian government mask regulations, Canadian Aviation Regulations, as well as directives of our crew.
“The actions taken were for the safety and benefit of the other 266 passengers on the flight.”
“We regret that some customers who were not involved were unfortunately deplaned. We have since reached out those we have identified as mistakenly removed to apologise and address their concerns.”
Under Canadian air transport rules, Mr and Mrs Brailey are entitled to C$2,400 (£1,516) each in cash compensation. They also appear entitled to be recompensed for the Air Transat tickets they bought after they were offloaded by Air Canada.