A couple says they had to cancel their trekking trip to Mongolia after Air Canada refused to let them take their bags off a delayed flight

  • A couple said Air Canada refused to let them take their bags off a delayed flight.

  • Paul Suter and Alyssa Yell said they ended up canceling their trip to Mongolia.

  • The couple said it took 24 days before they received their bags.

A couple said they had to cancel their horse-trekking trip to Mongolia after Air Canada refused to let them take their bags off a delayed flight, as first reported by the Canadian broadcaster Global News last Thursday.

Paul Suter and Alyssa Yell told Global News they booked a trip to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from Canada's Vancouver International Airport. The trip to Mongolia was meant to include three legs, stopping first in Montreal, followed by Istanbul, before reaching the final destination of Ulaanbaatar, they said.

Yell told Insider they had booked fully refundable business-class tickets through Turkish Airlines, a Star Alliance partner with Air Canada.

In the end, the flight to Montreal was delayed, and the couple didn't leave Vancouver, they told Global News.

"Air Canada has treated us awfully since the start of their mess, and every day we wake up feeling like we've been kicked in the stomach," Yell told Insider in an email.

On the morning of September 1, the day the couple was scheduled to fly, they received a notice from Air Canada that the flight had been delayed, they said. They added that later, after arriving at the airport and checking in four pieces of luggage, they received another email noting the flight had been delayed again. Global News published screenshots of the couple's email correspondences with Air Canada. 

Suter told Global News that when he approached an Air Canada agent to find out whether they'd make the connecting flight to Istanbul, she shook her head. The couple said they needed to arrive in Mongolia on time to go on their planned horse trek.

Yell told Insider the horse-trekking trip cost the couple 9,000 Canadian dollars, or about $6,570. The trip was non-refundable, Suter told Global News.

Yell said another Air Canada agent rebooked the couple on an alternative route that could get them to the final destination on time. They were apparently instructed to pick up their checked bags at the domestic area in Vancouver and recheck them for the international flight. Insider has not been able to independently verify the alternative-route tickets.

But the couple said they weren't allowed to pick up their bags at the baggage-claim counter.

"The agent basically said that they will not delay Flight 306 any longer to Montreal in order to get our bags off, and they will not be removed," Suter told Global News.

Suter said their bags were filled with camping gear, and it was then that they decided to cancel their trip to Mongolia.

"Knowing that our bags are in the air on the way to Montreal and we don't know when we are going to see them again, and we need our bags to make this trip and holiday of a lifetime happen," Suter told Global News.

The couple said they filed a luggage claim in Vancouver. Three of their bags, which they said turned up 24 days later, had baggage tags indicating they had ended up in Ulaanbaatar without them, Global News reported.

They said the other bag, which had been left behind in Vancouver, arrived at their home five days after they were supposed to fly to Montreal.

Yell told Insider their flight tickets added up to CA$16,000 for both. The couple said they'd received a refund of CA$4,000 for each ticket from Turkish Airlines; they had yet to be refunded by Air Canada, Yell said. The couple was scheduled to fly Turkish Airlines from Montreal to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar.

"Turkish Airlines had no problem refunding us the unused return trip on the airfare," Yell said, adding that the couple hadn't received the balance of some CA$8,000 from Air Canada.

Insider has not been able to independently verify how much the couple paid for their tickets.

"Paul was given CA$400 for the flight delay, but I'm still waiting for mine. The flight was delayed over 4 hours because we had no pilot, and we weren't going to make our connection, " Yell told Insider.

The couple said they received some compensation for their mishandled bags in the form of cash and travel vouchers: CA$4,652.67, a 25% one-time travel coupon, and CA$2,000 in travel vouchers from Air Canada for mishandling their bags. Insider has not been able to independently verify the amount of compensation.

"It does not replace the holiday that we are missing," Yell told Global News.

Yell said a customer-service agent asked them to submit other expenses incurred in Vancouver — including hotels and meals — for review. "We haven't heard anything about that either," she said.

Air Canada told Global News that it planned to refund the couple for their tickets.

"We are expediting the refund of their tickets, which is taking longer than normal as the fares were originally purchased and ticketed through another carrier," Air Canada said in a statement.

According to Air Canada's notice on Canadian Air Passenger Protection Regulations, passengers are entitled to a refund if a "flight is delayed three hours or more, or canceled." It added that Air Canada would rebook passengers on an alternative flight at the earliest opportunity.

Suter, Turkish Airlines, and Air Canada did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Insider.

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