In the early morning hours on Boxing Day, Jason Mjulumba Ncube received a phone call from police informing him that his elderly parents, who should have been in Alberta, were instead found wandering in the cold near Toronto Pearson International Airport in search of help.
“It was a really stressful moment. How are they in Mississauga? They are supposed to be in Calgary,” Ncube said.
Jason’s parents, 85-year-old Peterson Ncube and 76-year-old Daisy Ncube, were travelling from London, England, to visit their daughters for Christmas.
The elderly couple had a six-hour layover at Pearson between their Air Transat flight from the U.K. and their Porter Airlines flight to Calgary. Their daughters were then going to pick them up in Calgary to drive over to Edmonton, their final destination.
Jason said Air Transat was supposed to provide supervision and wheelchair assistance during this part of the trip since his parents have mild dementia.
“We haven’t had any problems in the past,” said Jason, who lives in Grimsby, Ont. “I have the itinerary […] that shows that we opted for wheelchair assistance, and it clearly says that they are completely immobile. So, we entrust these people for the security and safety for our parents.”
In an interview with CTV News, Daisy said when they landed in Toronto, they had no assistance.
“We had to pull our suitcases and bags,” she said, adding they started looking for someone who could help them get to their next gate.
“It seems people were busy. We’re just asking, ‘Where can we get another plane here?’ People seem to be busy and not give us help,” Daisy said. “It disturbed us.”
Somehow, the couple ended up outside of Toronto Pearson. A spokesperson for Peel Regional Police said a passerby called in at around 1:30 a.m. after spotting Peterson and Daisy Ncube in the area of Viscount Road and Airway Drive.
Jason said it was nearly 2:15 a.m. when he received a call from Peel Regional Police.
“I just got so shocked, I just didn’t know what to do,” Jason said, adding he and his wife left as soon as they could and arrived at the police station by 3:50 a.m.
“[My dad’s] hands were so cold, the hands were literally freezing cold.”
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
A spokesperson for Air Transat told CTV News in a statement the airline is “deeply concerned” about what happened and launched an investigation to understand how the Ncubes missed their final flight, and why they did not receive the appropriate supervision and assistance that they needed.
The airline said its preliminary findings revealed wheelchair support was provided, and that the Ncubes had scanned their boarding cards at the connecting counter at 5 p.m., four hours before their scheduled departure to Calgary with Porter Airlines.
“It is also important to note that no Special Service Request (SSR) indicated a need for meet-and-assist or extra assistance due to a hidden disability,” Bernard Cote of Air Transat wrote, adding the initial findings confirm the airline fulfilled the requested assistance.
“However, once passengers are under the care of a connecting airline and have completed their transit through the airport, their surveillance is not within our remit. Unfortunately, if the passengers decided to leave the airport on their own accord, it would not have been within our capacity to prevent this.”
FLYING BACK TO ALBERTA
“We’re not feeling anything bad now, because I realized it’s not too bad,” Peterson Ncube said.
Daisy chimed in, saying that although they didn’t make it to Alberta, the couple is happy to be with their son, Jason, and their loved ones in Ontario.
“We’re very happy because we’ve been away for a long time, so we’re so excited, nearly forgot about that. But, sometimes, it comes, ‘Why did these people treat us like this?’” she said.
Kwanele Ncube, one of Peterson and Daisy’s daughters, said their parents are scheduled to fly out to Edmonton on Dec. 30, in time to spend New Year’s together.
The family also said Air Transat is going to change their return flight to the U.K. to be direct, and pay for all expenses they incurred from a result of what happened.
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