This past weekend I shared a video (link below) to social media about our experience with Air Canada Vacations after our vacation in the Maya Riviera. https://t.co/MH6BuBra4z I can not express enough how incredibly stressful this was for our family, especially Shawn. I had planned this resort getaway with my sister who lives in B.C. Our families try to see each other once a year and this year we chose a Caribbean resort getaway. We have never tried an all-inclusive since Shawn’s accident because I was always so nervous about the uncertainty. Mainly I was worried about the lack of the companies, like Air Canada Vacations, guaranteeing an accessible room. However, after years of cruising we decided that we wanted to try something different and my sisters family was going to Mexico. So we took the plunge and booked the Iberostar Paraiso Beach with Air Canada Vacations. We booked last summer so I hadn’t returned to booking travel just yet. I had taken a few years off from being an accessible travel consultant to focus on Shawn and my aging mom with Parkinsons. I only relaunched my agency with a new host agency in November but I kept my booking with CAA Travel. I just wanted to relax and let someone else handle all the details for once. I felt comfortable with the agent who booked us and she had experience booking clients needing accessibility. Other than not getting the accessible room the first night and having to move rooms the next day, everything went extremely well. We had a fantastic time!
We had accessible transportation booked round-trip through Air Canada Vacations for the outrageous price of $320. Able bodied passengers receive their airport transfers for free. We had no other option because Shawn is in a power chair and can not take a few steps so a standard taxi is out of the question. The day after we arrived we were given confirmation by the ACV rep at the resort for our return pick-up. We were told to be in the lobby at 8:45am for a 9:00am pickup. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 12pm and the airport was 30 minutes away so we were okay with the times. Normally we head to the airport about 3-3.5 hours ahead of time but the Cancun airport was not huge and we were told the times were fine for pickup. We got Shawn up at 7:30am to get dressed and have breakfast for our meeting time. We sat and waited until 9:05am at which time we tried to hunt down the ACV rep. He was quite dismissive when we asked where the accessible shuttle was and we were told it would be here soon and not to worry that it was on “Mexican Time”. That is great except the airline is not on “Mexican Time” and we needed to get to the airport. By 9:20am, we are all starting to get a little nervous as there is still no shuttle. We tried to get the ACV rep attention that we were still waiting but he was more interested in upselling customers on excursions than noticing we still had not been picked up. Finally I decided to interrupt his sales pitch to other customers to say that the shuttle was now a half hour late and we needed to get to the airport. He made a bunch a calls and was a hold for a awhile to finally tell me the accessible shuttle was not coming. No explanation as to why. I quickly went into panic mode knowing that there is no on-demand accessible taxis in Cancun. The rep took me over to the bell desk and after some chatting in Spanish the rep left and the bellman said he was calling a taxi. I asked if it was an accessible taxi and he said no! I said I need a wheelchair taxi and he looks confused. The ACV rep comes back and I explain I need a wheelchair taxi. They then proceeded to ask me if Shawn’s chair can fold and he can take a few steps. I point to his power chair and said “NO” it does not fold and no he can’t walk! Then they start to look a bit worried. Once again the ACV rep leaves and the bellman gets a minivan taxi and asks if we can somehow get Shawn in it. NO!! At this point it is 10am and no one seems to know how to help us. I am in full on panic mode. Our flight now leaves in 2 hours, we are 30 minutes from the airport and still no idea how we are going to make it. I ask the ACV rep what is happening and he tells me to sit down and wait?? I asked what happens if we miss our flight and he said “I don’t know” and walked away. Meanwhile the bellman has found a taxi that will remove the seats from their van and rounded up 3 other taxi drivers to help. At this point it seems are only option is to lift Shawn in to the van. Here we are with 3 taxi drivers with no experience lifting a person willing to put their own safety at risk to lift a 220 pound man and his 175 pound wheelchair into a mini van. As they are working with our support staff, that we bring on all trips, to figure out the way to safety get Shawn in the van, I am starting to get worried we will miss our flight. It is getting close to 10:30am. I am trying to call the travel agent to be proactive with flights if we miss the plane. I called the office and explained that we may potentially be stranded at the airport and can someone call me back ASAP and that it was urgent. I was told someone would call me right back and no one ever did!! At this point we have not seen the ACV rep at all. I had asked him to contact the Air Canada airport desk to explain we were on on our way, which he never did. We got to the airport at 11am and I rushed to the check-in desk while Shawn and his chair were being carried off the taxi. We were not expedited through the line. No one came up to us to help with a single thing as we tried to navigate all the luggage. They took Shawn’s chair at check-in and left him in a manual chair. I get that is their policy but knowing we were 45 minutes away from missing our plane and thought someone would have pushed Shawn through the airport and helped get us through security but NO. We pushed the chair and then when we got to security they were only going to let one other person than Shawn through the Special Needs security line and the regular line was HUGE. I begged the security guy saying we were about to miss our flight so he let all 5 of us through. We got through security at 11:30am and when we finally got to the gate the plane was boarding. We went to the front to identity ourselves and we were sent down the gangway. We got to the airplane door and there is no aisle chair waiting. Shawn had to wait til everyone boarded and the aisle chair arrived. So now he gets an audience watching him transfer into an airplane seat. Humiliation #2 for the day. We made it home but not by any means from any help from Air Canada Vacations. I have reached out on social media and there needs to be some major changes to how they train and vet their service providers. I am also waiting to see how they rectify ruining our vacation, humiliating Shawn and putting not only his safety but those that helped carrying him. Complete incompetence and lack of care for those travellers that need any special assistance.
I have been my husbands caregiver for almost 12 years and we have travelled for 10 of those years. Never have I experienced the sheer panic I did when thinking we were about to be stranded at the airport. I ended the vacation with chest pains and nausea from a panic attack. Until you or your loved one are in the same position you have no idea the stress we experienced. Shawn relies on other people for every part of his life. We can’t just jump into a cab to get to the airport. If we had missed the flight, we would have been stranded at the airport with no transportation to stay somewhere for the night. All the direct flights were pretty much booked. Even if they had a couple seats left we would not be leaving our children behind in Mexico. I can not transfer Shawn in to a plane seat myself nor can he sit with a stranger. He needs help with EVERYTHING. Even if we had gotten on the last flight out would mean over 20 hours of Shawn being in his wheelchair. He can not shift his weight so the medical complications of him being in the same position were also making me panic. We confirmed our pick-up time throughout the week so this is completely unacceptable. No human being should experience the humiliation and indignity Shawn did. We travel to release ourselves of the everyday stress and travelling is always so hard for us. However, this is worst experience we have ever had. I am not sure I can even convince him to travel again right now which is very upsetting. When he was floating in the beach wheelchair in the pool he had a smile that I had not seen in a long time. He was so happy and so at peace. Shame on you Air Canada Vacations.