Actor Holly Robinson Peete says she feels disrespected by Air Canada after two of her sons were barred from boarding a flight at Vancouver International Airport, with a ticket agent telling them they could not board without presenting the credit card used to pay for their tickets.
The incident happened on Oct. 4 while Peete was in Mission, B.C., shooting the movie Our Christmas Journey. Peete is familiar with the province, having shot 21 Jump Street in Vancouver, and says she considers British Columbia her “second home.”
Two of her sons, Robinson, 19, and 16-year-old Roman, were visiting her for the weekend and were planning to board an evening flight back to Los Angeles. They each had one-way business-class seats, something Peete says she had booked numerous times before.
But when the two teens arrived at the Air Canada ticket counter at the Vancouver airport, they were told they needed to present the credit card used to purchase the tickets in order to board. They called their parents, who attempted to speak to the ticket agent and convince them of their identity.
“They said it was ‘policy’ and the card was flagged. ‘You must verify the card. You’re not flying today,'” Peete told CBC News.
“And then at one point, [the ticket agent] turned his back on them and walked away. Left them at the ticket counter with no other ticketing agents there.”
Peete says the Air Canada agent refused to speak with her to verify her identity, and the boys missed their flight.
Her sons ended up spending the night at a nearby hotel. The next morning, after Peete rebooked their flights, her sons were able to board with no problem. They were not asked to present the credit card.
“The elephant in the room is, you know, yeah, these are two Black boys travelling alone,” Peete said.
“I don’t want to think that there’s any kind of profiling going on, but I cannot understand why they refused to speak to the parents.”
Airline says situation due to security checks
Air Canada called the situation “unfortunate” and said it arose from regular credit card security practices and an automated anti-fraud system.
“In this instance, our fraud prevention team, which is not located at the airport and therefore operates impartially, had a concern with the way in which the tickets were purchased,” a spokesperson told CBC News on Sunday.
“The purchase regrettably was not validated in time for the customers to travel. We have followed up with the customer as we recognize this did cause inconvenience.”
Peete says no one from Air Canada reached out to her directly. She only received concessions once she took the initiative and called.
Air Canada subsequently offered to compensate her for the hotel stay, which was paid for by her and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete.
“My assistant told me that the customer service person said, ‘Well, of course, they’re going to be flagged — it’s two boys sitting in business class on a one-way ticket,'” she said.
“That really bothered me because that indicated that, you know, well, they didn’t look like they belonged there…. As a mom of Black boys, I am looking at this situation and I don’t like it. It doesn’t pass the smell test for me.”
Peete says she wants someone “higher up” at Air Canada to speak to her, as well as a public statement from the airline explaining what happened.
CBC News reached out to Air Canada to find out how often travellers are flagged for fraud. In its statement, the airline said credit card fraud “can amount to tens of millions,” but it did not provide a detailed number.