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‘I’m just a number, not a person’: Kelowna traveller re-routed and stranded in Victoria

Cam Lainchbury was told that WestJet does not have enough pilots qualified to fly in poor weather
The Kelowna airport is full of passengers hoping to get to their destination for the holiday season. (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

A Kelowna man has been on planes, ambulances and may add a boat to his itinerary, all in an attempt to get to Edmonton.

On Dec. 18, Cam Lainchbury was scheduled to fly to from Kelowna to Edmonton. Unfortunately, the recent turbulent weather turned flight delays into cancellations, and an unexpected change of plans.

The next day, Lainchbury received an email from WestJet saying that he had been re-booked on a flight to Victoria, and from there he would catch a connecting flight to Edmonton.

He was not able to speak to an agent over the phone to discuss alternative plans, and the WestJet employees at the airport assured him and the rest of the group that being re-routed through the island would be their best chance to get to Edmonton.

However, the flight leaving Kelowna was delayed, and the group missed their connection out of Victoria.

They were given a one-night voucher for a hotel and taxi rides.The next bump in the road, however - Victoria airport taxis do not take vouchers.

The next morning, the taxi woes continued, as the taxi from the hotel back to the airport was cancelled due to the heavy overnight snowfall, causing the desperate Lainchbury and his new group of Edmonton-bound travel buddies to start the long walk to the airport.

It was on this walk when an ambulance stood down from a call pulled up beside them.

After explaining their situation, the ambulance drivers agreed to give the group a lift to the airport.

“They were very nice… It was the best taxi ride ever,” said Lainchbury.

Once back at the airport, he was told that he had two options: he could fly to Vancouver on Dec.23, and catch a connecting flight to Edmonton from there, or he could fly directly to Edmonton from Victoria on Dec. 27, the day he was scheduled to return to work.

Lainchbury said he was told “they don’t have enough qualified pilots that can fly in this weather,” by a WestJet employee in Victoria.

Additionally, the Victoria employee didn’t know why Kelowna employees would send travellers to a small airport that was expecting a record-breaking snowstorm.

All flights to Edmonton from other airlines on the island are now full, and the airline is no longer providing vouchers, so he has to pay out of pocket for his hotel room in hopes that he will be re-compensated later.

“I’m just a number to them, I’m not even a person,” said Lainchbury. “I haven’t even received one email apologizing.”

He said that now, he is just trying to get off the island. Lainchbury said that he will likely have to cancel his highly-anticipated trip to Alberta, where he was going to visit family that he hadn’t seen in three years.

“It’s chaos… I just can’t believe that WestJet doesn’t have a backup plan for these big emergencies.”

READ MORE: Kelowna airport still dealing with flight disruptions

READ MORE: Dozens more daily low temperature records set across B.C.


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