Passenger stranded after confrontation with airline staff at Toronto Pearson Airport
A would-be traveller missed their flight out of Toronto Pearson International Airport last week, and claims that it was because she'd been mistreated by a WestJet airline employee before ultimately being barred from check-in and threatened with arrest and addition to the no-fly list.
Marina Kutepova tells blogTO, "on November 12th I was harassed and abused by a WestJet employee when waiting in line to check in for a flight."
Kutepova provided the name and video of the supervisor in question, but as the allegations are a bit on the 'he-said-she-said' side, their identity is being withheld.
Kutepova says she arrived at Pearson Airport at 7:30 a.m. on the morning of her flight to Puerto Rico and immediately proceeded to a check-in station. But the digital station did not allow her to check in for her flight, instead instructing her to visit a check-in desk for registration.
She says she was "patiently waiting in line until the supervisor called for passengers who have a flight to Puerto Rico," and that's when things seem to have gone off the rails.
"As soon as I approached her, she asked about my flight time, which was 9:30 a.m., and told me to go back in line," says Kutepova.
"I returned to the line when the other passengers advised that I should have asked her again as there was very little time left before the end of the registration."
"So I approached the supervisor again, trying to explain that I urgently needed to check in. However, she started yelling at me and forced me to go back in line."
"There was no access to return back to the same spot, which I explained to the supervisor, but she kept screaming and harassing me in front of everyone, saying that I had to 'obey' her. It was very unprofessional and highly unacceptable for an airline representative."
"I was so shocked and confused, I couldn't say a word."
Kutepova claims that the supervisor said, "You aren't giving me that dirty look. You're not going anywhere," and maintains that despite the confrontation, she believes that she "didn't do anything unlawful or disrespectful," other than remaining in line when the supervisor claimed she was not supposed to be there.
"She took the line divider and removed me from the line," says Kutepova, saying that she was threatened with a call to the police, told filming of any kind was illegal, and eventually removed from her flight before even boarding.
"She stole my time by threatening, yelling at me, and calling the police. I have the video proving that she was the one who took me off the flight and banned me from check-in at a time when registration was still open."
"The police officers told me that I should call customer service the next day to resolve the issue. However, when I called customer support the same day, there was no support but statements and blaming. They said in their system the flight is marked as a no-show, which is absolutely a lie."
A video of the incident has been edited to preserve the identity of the WestJet employee.
WestJet representative Denise Kenny explained the airline’s account of the events to blogTO, saying that "during the morning of November 12, our airport team at Toronto Pearson was working to expedite the check-in process for international departures and as per standard process were prioritizing the queue in order of departure times."
"During the timing in which our agents were calling to provide priority for guests with flights departing at 9:00 a.m., a member of our airport staff attempted to de-escalate a situation with a guest who circumvented the queue despite their departure time not occurring until 9:30 a.m."
Kenny says that "the guest was asked to comply with the times as outlined, as other guests with earlier departure times were being prioritized. Unfortunately, the situation did escalate due to non-compliance and the guest was denied service."
The airline does acknowledge that the whole situation could have played out differently, saying that "while it is always a last result to deny service, we do acknowledge this matter could have been de-escalated in a more appropriate manner by both parties."
"As mentioned, we have escalated this to our guest support team who will be in touch with Ms. Kutepova to discuss her experience further."
But Kutepova is still furious about the situation, saying that she has made several attempts to resolve the problem with customer service, and that the confrontation has cost her time and stress.
"I have been saving for this vacation for the whole year and got time off from my work which is very hard to arrange. My plans were ruined, and I received a lot of stress and anxiety. I couldn't sleep for two nights."
"I lost a huge amount of time and money for the hotels that were booked and other related expenses. I can't believe someone can decide your destiny just like that. This is not right, and I don't want other people to have the same experience."
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