Buying an airplane ticket is a big expense, that is well known. It can cost hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, to fly to the destination of your choice, but if you want to travel, it's often the best choice.
Ellen Flemming was traveling across the country, but her experience was not only expensive, it left her in tears. She was travelling from Kelowna, British Columbia to Saint John, New Brunswick, but the canceled connection was just the start of the issues.
Flemming, her husband, and two grandsons had to spend a night in a Toronto airport after their connecting flight was delayed. They finally boarded the plane at 8 a.m. to head to Saint John, but when Flemming sat in her seat she noticed something wasn't quite right.
“I went to put my water bottle into the pouch in front of me, and I put my hand in and pulled the pouch out, and my hand, my fingers went into this wet garbage,” she said to Global News.
After discovering the garbage left from a previous passenger, she asked that the flight attendant remove it.
"He just stood up tall and said, ‘I’m a flight attendant, I don’t do garbage,’” Flemming recalled.
She claims to have tried to ask him again, but he once again said that he wasn't responsible for taking care of the waste.
She finally decided that she just wanted it gone, so she waited until the attendant walked by with the food cart, because she knew there would be a little trash can on it. When the cart was by her chair she went to put the garbage into the container, but she says he swiped her hand away.
“He swiped my hand away, and the garbage, and so my hand came back and hit something on the way, and the garbage flew all over,” Flemming said.
She says she used her foot to push the trash away from her and into the aisle, but shortly after the flight attendant returned.
"After a while, someone came and patted my shoulder and it was the flight attendant, and he said 'Can I talk to you?' and I just ignored him. He tapped my shoulder again and he said he'd talked to the pilot and he wanted to talk to me, so I just ignored him."
"After a minute or two, the female flight attendant came along and tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Can I talk to you?'" she continued. "She did that twice and I just kept my eyes closed and ignored both of them."
But her attempts at diffusing the situation backfired.
"And then the pilot came on and he says, 'We're going back to Toronto.' We were almost in Saint John by that point, we were within an hour of Saint John, but we turned around and went back and nobody seemed to know what we were doing."
She realized after they landed that she was the reason why the plane was turned around.
"When we landed, after a while two police came on board. One came and stood right behind my seat, and the other one stood in front and there was a service agent as well. They looked up at the number on the seat and down at me and they asked me to come with them."
"We didn't know what to do," Flemming continued before becoming emotional.
She was questioned by the authorities about the incident, but as she told her side of the story, she learned that it didn't match up with what the flight attendant had claimed.
"Never did I holler at them," She explained while showing the report that says she "exhibited aggressive behavior towards a crewmember; threw garbage on the food trolley; and kicked a crewmember when requested to wait until the member to pick up the garbage as he was serving food."
But there were other people on the airplane, and one has spoken out to agree with the woman. Helen Hollet was sitting one aisle back, and she described the attendant as "irate."
“She just asked him to take the garbage and she was very nice about it and then he just, he got really mad,” Hollet said.
When the plane was turned around she even offered to pick up the garbage herself. “I said, ‘Well, if it’s because of the garbage, I’ll clean the garbage if you want me to,’” Hollett recalled. “And he said no. He said, ‘We’re going back for the safety of the passengers.’”
When the discussion was complete, Flemming tried to rebook her flight, but the airline wouldn't let her.
“The manager behind the desk, she just said, ‘You’re not ever flying Air Canada again.’”
No charges were laid against either the flight attendant or Flemming, even though she asked that the police charge the crewmember.
The situation has caught the attention of Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate, who is suggesting that airlines install video surveillance on flights to eliminate any doubt.
All Flemming wants is to be reimbursed for her second flight that she was forced to buy. “There needs to be some accountability. Accountability for that flight attendant’s behavior, for his actions, accountability for being the cause of a flight getting turned around,” she said.