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COMPLAINT: Air Canada almost killed my wife

 
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Old Aug 3, 2016, 6:34 PM
jdm jdm is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
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On June 6th, on a return flight from Sydney, Australia to Vancouver and onwards to Toronto, my wife was served an 'Asian / Vegetarian' meal. We'd ordered her meal when we booked online through aircanada.com in October 2015. She is primarily a vegetarian - she eats poultry, but not other meat. She's also got a very severe shellfish allergy, which is why we ordered a vegetarian meal. I understand the blanket caveat on Air Canada's page about special meals, but here's the thing. It's a 16 hour plus flight, we haven't the means to bring on and store meals for 16 hours, so we operated under the assumption that an Asian Vegetarian meal would be sufficiently separate from other meals with potential contaminants that it would be safe to ingest. There was no other way the contaminant could have been introduced into her system. She did not touch her food except with her utensils, so even if one of the crew had touched shellfish and then touched her food, that would not have done it, as the food was covered on the tray until she was given it.

Furthermore, the statement is way down the bottom of the page, the initial content is concerned with peanut allergies, which are even more difficult to control given that airborne particles can cause anaphylaxis.

When meal service began 2 hours into the flight, she was given her meal, which she consumed most of, deciding not to eat the bread roll or the fruit. Shortly after she told me that she was experiencing an anaphylactic episode and told me to administer an epipen as she went into full-blown anaphylactic shock. Her blood pressure and heart rate dropped very rapidly at this point as she turned grey and lost consciousness. I administered one epipen and called for help, then administered a second epipen while the crew made a request for any doctors present to assist.

My wife was stabilized thanks to the attention of doctors who were on the flight. She was given an IV, oxygen and intravenous steroids and epinephrine. I was assisting the doctors and dealing with the crew who were in contact with Air Canada ground staff, waiting to find out if we were going to have to turn around and make an emergency landing - at this point, we were at 11,000 meters and well over the Pacific. Thankfully she was judged safe by the doctors to continue on to Vancouver instead of returning to Australia Ė which had the closest airport able to handle a 777. Iím sure that would have been a very expensive inconvenience for Air Canada.

The cabin crew moved us a row back so she could lie down while taking oxygen, giving our prepaid extra legroom seats to the passengers they moved. I was asked to fill out some Air Canada forms, providing our names and contact information. The In-Charge told us we would be met at the jetway by Air Canada personnel.

In Vancouver we were met on the jetway by Air Canada personnel who spoke to us briefly, stating that Air Canada would look into what happened. We were then given ground transport to clear customs and security as my wife was too weak to stand for more than a few minutes. When we arrived in Toronto later that day, no one met us, and we were left to our own devices to find a wheelchair, get our bags and get home.

We returned home to Toronto late in the afternoon on Monday June 6th. Since then we have heard from Air Canada once Ė a phone call on Friday June 17th. The customer relations agent I spoke to didnít quite grasp the truly frightening nature of what happened. On June 22nd I received an email notifying me that Air Canada regrets the 'difficulties' we had on our flight, that Air Canada is looking into what happened, and further stating that although we ordered a meal that was purported to contain no meat/poultry/fish or shellfish, we should not have expected the meal to be contaminant-free at all.

I wrote a letter to Air Canada executives after that. It was professional, it was polite and it asked for our money back as a gesture of apology and regret. Instead of hearing back from them we were handed off to the Claims Department. They refused to speak to me about this due to 'privacy legislation' even though my wife has expressly directed them to in writing, they've requested medical records, none of which we have as we were not given any by the flight crew, and they've told us that their testing didn't reveal contaminants, 6 weeks after the incident - there was no testing of the meal in question.

My wife is now suffering panic attacks, for the first time in her life. She's taking anti-anxiety medication for the first time in her life. We're both having nightmares about this. She's is an international presenter in her field, and she's now very anxious about travelling.

Both us, our family and our friends & coworkers are utterly appalled at how this is turning out. We should have been met in Toronto with a refund and an apology. Instead we're getting the feeling that this was our fault and we should go away and be done with it. There was no medical followup, there was no formal apology, there was no offer to make-good. Nothing at all really other than a 'hope to welcome you aboard again soon' message. So utterly tone-deaf it boggles the mind.

They only way the shellfish got into my wife's system was via the meal. She's very aware of her allergy and doesn't handle her food lest she pass on any contaminants. The only food she ingested that could have poisoned her was the meal that Air Canada served her. Air Canada tested meals from the caterer in Australia, several weeks after our flight, so I'm not at all surprised they've not found anything.

Now we're trying to recover from this, we're looking into lawyers and I'm embarking on a social media campaign to get the story out. I'm furious at how this is being dragged out. Their application of 'policy and procedure' is causing my wife serious mental trauma, on top of the incredible physical distress she went through. As it stands now I'm more concerned about her health and wellbeing going forward.

In a perfect world Air Canada would refund our airfare and compensate my wife with an amount that covers psychological counselling. I know the odds of any of this happening are slim, but doing this makes us feel like we have some control and recourse.

If you or someone you know has a food allergy, bring your own meals and snacks. Do not depend on Air Canada to keep you safe.
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allergy, anaphylaxis, food poisoning, lawsuit, meals


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