Quebec scouts camp in Vancouver airport after flight cancellation

Sam Tessier, 16, is among the 19 young scouts who were stranded at Vancouver airport overnight from Saturday to Sunday.  (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Sam Tessier, 16, is among the 19 young scouts who were stranded at Vancouver airport overnight from Saturday to Sunday. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

Sam Tessier and 18 fellow scouts from the Quebec City area had planned for years to visit the Yukon, but a cancelled flight forced the group to camp at the Vancouver airport for more than 24 hours, and the teenagers still haven't reached their destination.

After sorting cans and doing volunteer work, the 72e Groupe scout de Cap-Rouge raised $37,000, to put toward their tour.

"Since we were six years old, we have been told that we would go on a big trip," Tessier said. "Then, everything sort of fell apart a bit."

The teenagers, ages 13 to 17, and three facilitators were due to arrive in Whitehorse on Saturday evening. But they were stuck at the Vancouver airport from 11 a.m. Saturday until Sunday afternoon.

In recent weeks, countless travellers have seen their flight plans upended as the airline industry grapples with a post-pandemic surge in demand and staffing shortages.

Last Wednesday, Air Canada announced the cancellation of thousands of flights this summer

The scouts say the airline told them no hotel in Vancouver would be able to accommodate their large group, but that if they ever found one themselves, they could ask the company for a refund.

Since finding a hotel for the whole group at that hour of the night was unlikely, the scouts camped at a terminal.

"We slept, for better or for worse,  under the big lights and the calls of the different flights," said Charles Babin, a facilitator accompanying the group. "It wasn't the best night in the world, and without all our luggage, some had their sleeping bags and others just had floor mats."

When they woke up on Sunday, they knew they would have to wait until Wednesday before they could fly to Whitehorse.

On Sunday afternoon, Air Canada was able to transfer the group to a hotel in Vancouver.

Mohamed Azakir/Reuters
Mohamed Azakir/Reuters

In an email, a spokesperson for Air Canada said the company is in "regular contact" with the scouts, and they are registered for the next flight on July 6.

"In the meantime, we have been able to provide them with accommodation until their the day their flight is scheduled to leave" the spokesperson wrote.

The group's stay in the Yukon was supposed to last nine days, ending on July 10, but flight delays shortened their trip by half. To avoid wasting time, the scouts are considering renting cars to visit B.C.

Despite the abrupt change of plans, Babin said the scouts' resourcefulness has served them well.

"I think the group spirit is still good. We know each other well. We're here for the adventure," he said. "We try to keep them motivated and show them that you learn by doing things that don't happen as you'd like them to."