Maple Ridge sisters Maranda and Marjory Reyes wanted to fly “home” to the Philippines to be with their family, following the death of their grandfather.
However, when they tried to board their connecting flight, on Air Canada partner airline All Nippon Airways in Japan, they were told they did not have the right documents to enter the Southeast Asian country.
The sisters claim they did their due diligence and made sure they had everything they needed to travel, meeting all travel guidelines and restrictions, before they started their journey on Jan. 7. They are angry about they way they were treated by agents of both airlines.
“We understand that due to Covid-19 there are specific requirements for most countries,” read an online post by Maranda on Jan. 9, one of a series the dual Canadian-Filipino citizen wrote after being denied travel.
“We did our research thoroughly and confirmed that we both met those requirements as (dual) citizens of the Philippines, being born in this country, our homeland,” said the grieving granddaughter.
She said they continued to review all regulations and necessary documents every day until their departure.
“We passed boarding in YVR, after AIR CANADA agents had confirmed with PH Immigration themselves that our paperwork was proper and what was needed. Yet, when we stopped in Japan, different Air Canada staff said they “thought” we did not have the proper requirements,” said Maranda.
“This was the start of the worst 24 hour travel experience I had ever faced,” she added.
So, the pair sought help from the Philippine consulate – in Tokyo – to resolve the situation and were at the airport for about three hours trying to do just that. But, she said, there was a lack of patience and empathy from the Air Canada and All Nippon Airways agents, who refused to listen to them.
“I kept telling the agents that I had the embassy on the phone and was seeking assistance, but they gave us the ultimatum to catch the next flight,” which, she added, they had already placed their luggage on. Or to stay at the airport at a cost of $1,000 per person.
Maranda complained that Air Canada agents repeatedly took their belongings – carry-on luggage and documents – and walk away with them and that they were continually threatened with fines and sanctions, even though the consulate offered several soluntions, including providing the sisters with additional emergency documents.
“At one point there were literally five or six agents surrounding us and telling us to leave,” said Maranda.
Additionally, she said, embassy representatives were confused as to why airline staff were denying them travel to the country, assuring them they had all the proper identification.
So the sisters boarded a flight back to YVR.
“Ultimately, YOUR Air Canada staff in Japan continued to “bully” my sister and I with ultimatums and threatening us with large amounts of money that we would have to pay,” asserted Maranda, adding she is making a formal complaint to the company.
The following day they booked a new flight with Philippine Airlines, which she said had the documents needed and rules properly listed on their website – requirements which, she insisted, they still met.
All Nippon Airways responded to Maranda’s posts with an apology online.
“We apologize for the inconvenience, Maranda. We highly suggest that you contact us so we can learn more about your situation,” read the response listing two phone numbers and a link to an online inquiry form to do so.
A representative from Air Canada said the company has been in contact with the family.
“These customers were denied boarded on their connecting flight to the Philippines by their next airline, ANA in Narita, Japan,” explained the representative in an email to The News.
“Air Canada was advised that as Canadian passport holders, due to a change in entrance policy by the Philippine government for the Dec 30-Jan 15 period, they were ineligible to enter the Philippines, and ANA advised Air Canada staff in Narita they would not accept them for their connecting flight,” continued the email, adding that the passengers subsequently returned to YVR.
It is important to note, the company said, that government mandates and border entrance requirements can change quickly during these times.
However, Maranda said, she was the one who reached out to Air Canada.
“I actually just reached out to them again,” she said from her family’s home in the Philippines.
The company has not issued the sisters a refund, but told them that they will be investigating the incident further.
With the recent controversy over travel outside the country, the sisters want the public to know their trip was not a vacation, but a trip “home” to grieve.
“This trip wasn’t a vacation, we weren’t going home for enjoyment, but to grieve at HOME with our loved ones,” said Maranda.
Recently, numerous federal and provincial politicians – and others in prominent roles – received much criticism, with some even stepping down over international travel, despite ongoing pandemic restrictions.
Liberal MP’s Kamal Khera and Sameer Zuberi were forced to step away from their roles in the federal government after travelling to the United States. Khera stepped down as parliamentary secretary to International Development Minister Karina Gould after travelling to Seattle for a private memorial and Zuberi stepped down from his roles on parliamentary committees after travelling to Delaware to visit his wife’s sick grandfather.
Conservative MP David Sweet was also forced to resign after travel to the U.S. and NDP MP Niki Ashton stepped aside from her roles in the NDP shadow cabinet after she travelled to Greece to visit her sick grandmother.
“Please understand, that this was not a “trip”, rather us making our way back home,” noted Maranda, to grieve the loss of her grandfather with their loved ones.
“We were traveling home as Filipino citizens, just as Canada is allowing their own people to return,” she said in her most recent post online.
“I’ve called both the Philippines and Canada home all my life. This wasn’t a vacation, this was us trying to go home – which some may not understand,” she said.
Mostly, though, the sisters are upset with their treatment by the Air Canada staff in Japan.
“It was about the way we were treated as humans,” said Maranda.
“We were in a foreign country, held behind for reasons we could not understand and that made no sense. We just wanted answers and to be treated fairly.”