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Mom, daughter kicked off Air Canada plane, not told they're banned from airline until it was too late

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Air Canada says the 2 were ordered to leave July 31 flight due to disruptive behaviour

 
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Sophia Harris · CBC News · Posted: Aug 16, 2019 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: an hour ago
 
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Ana Constantin, left, and her daugher Lisa Maria Paun are pictured on vacation in Romania before they boarded and were forced off an Air Canada flight in Bucharest on July 31. (Submitted by Ana Constantin)
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A Quebec woman wound up spending nearly $8,000 in airline tickets to fly herself and her daughter home after Air Canada kicked them off a plane and then didn't immediately inform them that they were banned from future Air Canada flights. 

Air Canada says the two were ordered to leave their flight, departing Bucharest for Montreal on July 31, due to disruptive behaviour.

 

Ana Constantin and her daughter, Lisa Maria Paun, deny the allegation, and say that being ousted from the plane was only the beginning of their ordeal. 

Because they didn't know at the time about their ban, they booked the next available flight home — the second leg of which was again with Air Canada. 

When they arrived at their stopover in Frankfurt, much to their surprise, Air Canada wouldn't let the two board their connecting flight back to Canada, leaving them stranded at the airport. 

 
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In all, Constantin, right, racked up more than $8,000 in airfare, hotels and additional expenses trying to get herself and her daughter back to Montreal. (Submitted by Ana Constantin)

"Imagine the frustration," said a still-distraught Constantin from her home in Gatineau, Que. "It's beyond understanding."

Following a CBC News inquiry, Air Canada emailed a letter to Constantin and Paun — two weeks after their initial flight — laying out why they were ordered off that flight and details of their flying ban.

I am mentally and financially devastated. I cannot eat. I cannot sleep.- Ana Constantin

But the information came too late; Constantin had already paid a total of $7,758 for a flight that only got them as far as Frankfurt, and then another flight on Austrian Airlines to finally return to Montreal. 

"I am mentally and financially devastated," said Constantin. "I cannot eat. I cannot sleep."

Air Canada said it's "dealing directly" with the passengers regarding reimbursement for the Frankfurt flight. So far, Constantin has received a $262.26 refund toward the $3,916 flight.

What are the reasons?

Their troubles began when Constantin, a 45-year old financial officer, and Paun, a 22-year-old university student, boarded their Air Canada flight at the Henri Coandă Airport in Bucharest after visiting family in Romania.

They said the flight's departure was delayed because some passengers had to be reassigned seats so families could sit together.

Paun said someone else was put in her seat, so she was assigned to a different one.

She said she and her mother were ordered to leave the plane after a flight attendant asked Paun to return to her initial seat, and she replied that she couldn't.

"I said that I can't move back because you just put a man in my seat. And that's when she just got angry with me and said that I'm not co-operating."

 
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Air Canada said the two passengers 'became verbally abusive to the crew' and 'refused to take their assigned seats or safely stow onboard luggage.' (Air Canada)

Constantin said she was in the washroom at the time and when she learned the news, she refused to disembark, so a police officer was called to escort them off the plane. 

"We felt very embarrassed and humiliated," said Paun. 

 

In an email to CBC News, Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah said that Paun and Constantin "became verbally abusive to the crew" and refused to take their assigned seats or safely stow their carry-on bags.

She also said efforts made by the crew to defuse the situation were unsuccessful.

"Air Canada has a zero tolerance policy for disruption and outright refusal to follow safety directions," said Mah.

Paun and Constantin deny Air Canada's accusations. CBC News was unable to verify what happened on board with third-party witnesses.

What are the rules?

According to Transport Canada, airlines have the right to refuse to board passengers if it's deemed their behaviour may jeopardize the safety of a flight. 

But the federal department also says that passengers should be informed about why they're denied boarding and the conditions of their ban. 

Constantin and Paun said they received no such information at the time; instead, Paun said a flight attendant told her they'd be rebooked on another Air Canada flight. 

The two women spent the next two days in Bucharest, calling Air Canada, but said they were told there was nothing in the airline's computer system about their case. 

Desperate to get home, Constantin rebooked them on a flight for Aug. 4, issued by Air Canada for $3,916. 

They had no problem boarding partner airline, Lufthansa on the first leg to Frankfurt. But then the two women weren't allowed to board their Air Canada flight back to Canada.

"We felt like dirt," said Constantin. "I couldn't take it anymore. I started to cry."

Feeling she had no choice, Constantin shelled out another $3,842 for two seats on an Austrian Airlines flight to Montreal. 

In all, she racked up more than $8,000 in airfare, hotels and added expenses, trying to get herself and Paun home.

Entitled to refunds

CBC News asked Air Canada why it allowed Constantin and Paun to book themselves on another Air Canada flight after it had banned them from flying.

The airline responded that anybody can book a ticket and that it's only when passengers check in and show ID that Air Canada can verify if they're prohibited from boarding. 

The airline also said that it sent Constantin and Paun information about their ban shortly after they were ordered off the Bucharest flight. However, that information — in the form of a letter — was sent by regular mail, and Constantin said it hasn't yet arrived. 

One day following CBC News's inquiry to Air Canada on Tuesday, Constantin and Paun received the letter by email. 

 

CBC News also asked Air Canada about compensation. The airline's tariff or rule book states that passengers refused boarding are entitled to refunds for the unused portion of their trip. 

The airline said that because Lufthansa issued the tickets for the initial Air Canada flight the two women were removed from, it's up to that airline to handle a refund request for that flight. 

Air Canada didn't indicate if Constantin will get a full refund for the Frankfurt flight. 

Constantin and Paun can try to get their flying ban lifted only by writing Air Canada, promising they won't behave badly again. Constantin said she won't be doing that because they have no future plans to fly with the airline. 

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Air Canada forced 12-year-old Muslim girl to take off her hijab after already passing security

The airline said such checks are 'required by law' but apologized, admitting the situation 'could have been handled better'

Fatima AbdelrahmanFatima Abdelrahman ,12, was forced to take her hijab off by Air Canada employees while travelling from San Francisco to Toronto for a squash tournament.Sabreen Abdelrahman - supplied

August 14, 2019
12:53 PM EDT


 

A 12-year-old girl and her family are searching for answers after Air Canada employees forced her to remove her hijab while waiting to board a flight at San Francisco International Airport.

Fatima Abdelrahman was travelling from California to Toronto on Aug. 1 with fellow players and her coach on the U.S. Squash team to play in an international tournament against Canadian opponents.

After passing through security and having her passport and boarding passes checked, she waited at the gate to enter the aircraft. As her group began walking onto the plane, an Air Canada agent approached Fatima, demanding she take off her headscarf.

“The agent pulled me aside and said, ‘you’re going to need to take your scarf off’ and I said, ‘I can’t’ and he said, ‘no, you need to,’ ” Fatima said. “I knew I had done absolutely nothing wrong.”

webp.net-resizeimage-29.jpg?quality=60&strip=all&w=640Fatima Abdelrahman, 12, was competing in the Battle of the Borders tournament where U.S. squash players visit Toronto to play Canadian opponents. This was her very first time travelling without family. Sabreen Abdelrahman - supplied

Two other Air Canada employees then approached Fatima, reiterating she must remove the head covering because she wasn’t wearing one in her passport photo.

Eventually a female employee escorted Fatima to a corner in a tunnel where passengers enter the plane and had her remove the headscarf.

“It makes me feel really angry,” she said. “I was humiliated.”

While it was happening, Fatima was messaging her family.

“She made me take it off for a sec and then was like ok,” read a text from Fatima to her family. She added that the agent barely looked at what was on her head before letting her board the flight.

What makes it so serious is the aspect that it involves, smells and feels like racism

 

Fatima eventually found a seat on the plane, but never saw her teammates and coach until they landed.

It was the 12-year-old’s first time travelling internationally without her family.

Fatima’s mother replied to the urgent texts, telling her to stay calm, while her older sister Sabreen was enraged.

“My mom was shaking because she was already worried about her travelling alone, my dad and I were shocked and angry,” Sabreen said. “How is this happening to my baby sister?”

Sabreen took to Twitter to confront Air Canada about the incident.

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. @AirCanada pls explain why you pulled aside my 12yr old sister for flight 758 making her take off her hijab AT THE GATE?? AFTER she already passed security??

Thx for ruining her experience as the first U.S. National Team Squash player in Hijab + her first time traveling alone

 

Hello Sabreen, we are truly sorry to hear about this situation and we certainly understand your concerns. May you please DM us your daughter's booking reference so we can better follow-up? /Mick

 
 
 
 

Air Canada replied to the tweet asking for more information while also mistakenly referring to Fatima as Sabreen’s daughter.

The National Post reached out to Air Canada for five consecutive days and did not receive a response.

Emails between the airline and Sabreen forwarded to the National Post indicate that Air Canada apologized but justified the move by employees.

“We recognize you and your sister’s disappointment with the identification check that was done for her travel to Canada. Air Canada must comply with Canadian laws and regulations, which require us to compare a passenger’s entire face with the photograph shown on the travel document used prior to boarding the aircraft,” an Air Canada spokesperson wrote to the family.

“Should one of our passengers wear religious or cultural head wear, as many do, we recognize the importance of respecting their right to privacy and any necessary identification check is to be done discretely and in a private area.”

But Fatima’s face was fully visible and despite her pleas, was not taken to a private area.

Magdy, Fatima’s father, wrote back to Air Canada after being “disturbed” by the response.

“Fatima just returned back yesterday and was not asked to remove her scarf at Pearson Airport, so Air Canada either broke the Canadian law yesterday or was racist on Thursday, which one is it?” read Magdy’s email.

He added that other people in the airport were wearing sunglasses and hats that cover their faces, but were not pulled aside, which he wrote, “clearly illustrates that the agent was targeting Fatima as a Muslim.”

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) was not involved in the incident, but says passengers may keep their head coverings on during the screening process. They may require additional screening if they set off a metal detector.

“CATSA knows that there can be sensitive situations when screening head coverings worn for religious or medical reasons. Screening Officers are trained to recognize these situations and ensure that passengers are treated with discretion and sensitivity,” a spokesperson wrote.

“If a physical search is required, it may be conducted in a private search room at the passenger’s request.”

webp.net-resizeimage-36.jpg?quality=60&strip=all&w=640Air Canada wrote it “must comply with Canadian laws and regulations which require us to compare a passenger’s entire face with the photograph shown on the travel document used prior to boarding the aircraft” and does so privately. Chris Helgren / Reuters

Gábor Lukács, the founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights says he doesn’t believe the airline was allowed to force Fatima to remove her hijab and calls the incident a “significant failure in training.”

“Do they think a 12-year-old kid is going to be a threat in the flight? This was a power trip. You have their U.S. passport, the coach, their mates — just use your head,” he said.

“What makes it so serious is the aspect that it involves, smells and feels like racism … targeting them because of what they look like or their religion.”

He added that if the airline thought she was a threat, they should have contacted police or security.

“They are nothing more than your bus driver, not a state actor who can punish you and tell you how to be good or bad,” Lukács said.

“Imagine you were on a bus and the driver tells you you can’t get on the bus unless you took off your religious headwear. That’s fundamentally wrong.”

What your agent did at SFO is a seed for hate-spreading that needs to be stopped at all levels

 
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Magdy also urged Air Canada to make a donation to the children of a couple gunned down during the terrorist attack in El Paso, Texas that ended 22 lives. Investigators are considering the mass shooting as a hate crime towards Hispanic immigrants.

“I obviously am not directly blaming Air Canada for that tragedy, but what your agent did at SFO (San Francisco International Airport) is a seed for hate-spreading that needs to be stopped at all levels,” Magdy wrote.

Air Canada apologized.

“On behalf of Air Canada, I would like to apologize for letting you down and leaving you disappointed after boarding your flight at the airport in San Francisco,” a spokesperson wrote to Magdy.

“I agree that this could have been handled better and I want to personally assure you that we are using your feedback to ensure improvements are made.”

Sabreen adds that the airline said it would consider donating to the children who lost their parents during the terrorist attack in El Paso.

webp.jpg?quality=60&strip=all&w=640Fatima Abdelrahman visits Niagara Falls while in Canada. Sabreen Abdelrahman - supplied

Fatima didn’t let the incident throw her off — she won her squash tournament and hopes it will be one of many.

She says she doesn’t plan on using Air Canada again and it’s unclear if U.S. Squash will continue using Air Canada — the organization did not respond to the National Post’s request for comment.

But Fatima says she still likes Canada.

“I don’t think it’s changed my perspective of Canada itself,” she said. “There’s a lot of nice people there.”

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Regarding the second story: 

1)  "Why did they make her remove the hijab at the gate, after passing security?"  Well, asking this question clearly shows these people have zero understanding of the difference between passenger screening and ID verification at the gate, nor any understanding of the requirements the airline is forced to follow.  

2)  "But Fatima’s face was fully visible and despite her pleas, was not taken to a private area."  So, out of sight of the other passengers, around the corner and on the bridge isn't "private" enough?

3)  "“What makes it so serious is the aspect that it involves, smells and feels like racism … targeting them because of what they look like or their religion.” - I wonder, does Gabor actually understand the meaning of the word "racism" or does he just throw it around because it gets people worked up?

4)  Gabor added that if the airline thought she was a threat, they should have contacted police or security.  They didn't think she was a threat, they were checking her ID according to the regs.

5)  etc, etc, 

 

Edited by seeker

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History is not on your side here. Since 9/11, I've boarded hundreds of flights where one or more of my fellow passengers were dressed as she was. Not once have I seen any of them asked to remove it. By this apparently new standard, everyone wearing a ball cap or toque should be required to remove them while boarding. I can't wait to see the reaction to that!

Edited by J.O.

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1 hour ago, J.O. said:

By this apparently new standard, everyone wearing a ball cap or toque should be required to remove them while boarding. I can't wait to see the reaction to that!

This is the current standard.  Announcements made before boarding commences that everyone must remove ball caps, etc.  I've even been asked to remove my uniform hat.  The reaction to that?  People remove their hats, what reaction would you expect.  I'm sure there's some eye-rolling but no adverse reaction that I've observed.  I am also regularly asked by US Border patrol to remove my uniform hat. 

Edited by seeker

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4 hours ago, MD2 said:

I am mentally and financially devastated

I can believe that she has a mental problem

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I've been asked to remove my uniform hat when deadheading by the gate agent.  It's a requirement and so I comply. 

There's no story here.

Vs

 

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The issue as I read it originally was a lap child was in the younger woman's assigned seat and things we downhill from there. My experience with these types of situations is there is usually no reliable narrator to be found and it ultimately doesn't matter who was right because what's done is done and unless there is egregious evidence the cabin crew was in the wrong the airline isn't going to back down.

Edited by Super 80

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Hmmm.  The few times I have had passengers removed from a flight I was operating, it was an ordeal for the flight attendants and they double checked with me before doing it, as they were worried whether they would be supported.  It's neither easy on them, nor pleasant and not something I have ever seen done without a lot having gone wrong.  Indeed, there have been several cases where I had to trust the in-charge, when a passenger was already acting up with the door open, they felt it would settle down and we could push back with them.

I've been in the cabin for a couple of passenger 'behaviour' moments, and in neither case did the passenger have any insight into how offside they were.  It doesn't surprise me in these cases to read the passenger's 'I am a completely innocent victim' statement and complete assignment of blame to the staff.

Disruptive passengers are a threat.  I feel for the in flight crew here.  How do you accurately forecast the behaviour of someone you have never met, giving you grief before the door is closed?  Will they ultimately trigger a diversion in the middle of a long flight?  Will another passenger be harmed because you decided to give this one person the benefit of the doubt?

Finally, it's not like it is a secret that bad behaviour is not tolerated.  If someone really can't keep their act together during boarding, it should come as no surprise to them that they are given a time out and possibly grounded until they can explain their actions.

My $0.02.

Vs

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5 hours ago, Vsplat said:

Hmmm.  The few times I have had passengers removed from a flight I was operating, it was an ordeal for the flight attendants and they double checked with me before doing it, as they were worried whether they would be supported.  It's neither easy on them, nor pleasant and not something I have ever seen done without a lot having gone wrong.  Indeed, there have been several cases where I had to trust the in-charge, when a passenger was already acting up with the door open, they felt it would settle down and we could push back with them.

I've been in the cabin for a couple of passenger 'behaviour' moments, and in neither case did the passenger have any insight into how offside they were.  It doesn't surprise me in these cases to read the passenger's 'I am a completely innocent victim' statement and complete assignment of blame to the staff.

Disruptive passengers are a threat.  I feel for the in flight crew here.  How do you accurately forecast the behaviour of someone you have never met, giving you grief before the door is closed?  Will they ultimately trigger a diversion in the middle of a long flight?  Will another passenger be harmed because you decided to give this one person the benefit of the doubt?

Finally, it's not like it is a secret that bad behaviour is not tolerated.  If someone really can't keep their act together during boarding, it should come as no surprise to them that they are given a time out and possibly grounded until they can explain their actions.

My $0.02.

Vs

I feel for everybody. By the time the decision has been made to remove somebody it really doesn't matter what transpired up to that point, it's done. But boarding can be a chaotic and stressful situation yet not a situation that should defy deescalation I don't think somebody being disoriented and frustrated during boarding because their seat is occupied or they can't find somewhere to stow their bag is a good predictor of a future outburst or non-compliance and I have seen plenty of cabin crew who were every bit or even more agitated than the pax as they balanced the overheads with seating conflicts. A frustrated and disoriented person is not going to be as immediately compliant as a marine on a drill line and especially if they're unable to do so. I was a little concerned I might get kicked off an American Eagle flight as I dutifully complied with contradictory instructions from two different flight attendants in the world's worst ever game of Simon Says.

Air travel is stressful, everybody just needs to chill out a little. I have seen pax, flight attendants and even the cockpit crew behave in ways they would not wish to see shared on Facebook.

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Yes!  The passenger runs to the media (or Gabor) and says, "I don't know why they treated me so poorly?  I was an angel who never did anything wrong.  Must be racism!"  Meanwhile the airline (or coffee shop or grocery store) can't say anything about the how the person was being a complete savage, running around throwing punches and swearing like a drunk sailor.

My default position is that the person complaining on twitter, or the CBC, or facebook is a lying, low-life thief looking for a freebie.  Sometimes I'm wrong but not very often.

 

 

 

 

Edited by seeker

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2 hours ago, moeman said:

68898282_10162309065315245_6779174146623406080_n.jpg

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence, you're going to have to explain how the assault of a flight attendant that saw the police called to the plane somehow resulted in no criminal charges and apparently no first-hand witnesses.

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1 hour ago, Super 80 said:

you're going to have to explain how the assault of a flight attendant that saw the police called to the plane somehow resulted in no criminal charges and apparently no first-hand witnesses.

I guess you're familiar enough with Romanian law and with how law enforcement in Romania functions to conclude that if no criminal charges were filed an assault couldn't possibly have been committed.  I know I'm not.  As for there being no first-hand witnesses, who is to say that there aren't any?  Perhaps they haven't gone public.

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Forget Romania then, why didn't Air Canada mention the assault in their public statement where they said they were verbally abusive to the crew? Seems like a detail that would help their argument would it not?

Edited by Super 80

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6 minutes ago, Super 80 said:

Forget Romania then, why didn't Air Canada mention the assault in their public statement where they said they were verbally abusive to the crew?

I don't know, nor do I know whether an assault occurred, but unlike you I'm not drawing conclusions.  I wasn't there and I have no idea what happened or didn't.  Neither do you.

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I do know an anonymous reddit post describing a nearly fantastical scenario that conflicts with the public statements of both Air Canada and the removed pax is just a little suspect.

  • Like 1

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22 minutes ago, Super 80 said:

I do know an anonymous reddit post describing a nearly fantastical scenario that conflicts with the public statements of both Air Canada and the removed pax is just a little suspect.

Actually, I find the anonymous Rediit post to be more reliable than the crap posted in the MSM.   Any info given by AC will intentionally be no-committal and vague.

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I was on a flight a few years ago where there was a perceived disturbance, it was actually somebody having a diabetic emergency but even people a couple rows away had completely misread the situation until the crew made the "is there a doctor onboard?" announcement.

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4 hours ago, Super 80 said:

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence, you're going to have to explain how the assault of a flight attendant that saw the police called to the plane somehow resulted in no criminal charges and apparently no first-hand witnesses.

The daughter deleted her original Reddit post. Didn't see it before she did, but from reading the comments below it, she doesn't sound very credible. That's two separate comments from two different people that I've read now who both said the Mom rammed an FA who was blocking her from getting to the flight deck, so I'm leaning towards believing it. 

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13 hours ago, moeman said:

The daughter deleted her original Reddit post. Didn't see it before she did, but from reading the comments below it, she doesn't sound very credible. That's two separate comments from two different people that I've read now who both said the Mom rammed an FA who was blocking her from getting to the flight deck, so I'm leaning towards believing it. 

 

15 hours ago, Super 80 said:

Forget Romania then, why didn't Air Canada mention the assault in their public statement where they said they were verbally abusive to the crew? Seems like a detail that would help their argument would it not?

At its most basic element, an assault is any unwanted physical contact. You touch someone with a feather and it counts as an assault. 

That said the local police have enough power to distinguish between a slight shove and knocking someones lights out. 

If the FA presses charges, the aircraft becomes an investigation scene and the flight will get cancelled. Better to just offload the offending pax, close the door, get their bags, pushback, and deal with the ban after the fact. 

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