VANCOUVER, British Columbia – An immigrant family left a 23-month-old boy in the Vancouver airport and learned he was missing only when contacted during the next leg of the trip.
Jun Parreno, the boy's father, told The Vancouver Sun the mix-up occurred Monday as he, his wife and two grandparents of the child, J.M., were scrambling between their arrival in Canada and a connecting flight to Winnipeg on Air Canada.
Running late after having to unpack and repack all their luggage, "we had 10 minutes before boarding," said Parreno, who was emigrating with his family from the Philippines. "We were running for the gate."
He said he thought his son was with the three other adults, who were running to the gate ahead of him, and they thought the little boy was with him.
Instead, in a scenario similar to the movie "Home Alone," the toddler was wandering alone between a security checkpoint and the flight gates, said Angela Mah, an Air Canada representative.
"We were called by (security) who told us one of the security people had a toddler in tow," Mah said. "He doesn't speak English, so we found a Tagalog-speaking agent who has been looking after him."
There was no boarding pass for the youngster because he did not have a separately assigned seat, so there was no indication in the airline's computer system that someone had missed a flight, nor had there been any panicked calls from anyone on a flight missing a child, Mah said.
That's because the family was scattered in different parts of the plane to Winnipeg and still didn't know the child had been left.
Air Canada staff began checking flights that had left, and "we eventually determined who his parents might be ... and the flight crew talked to them," Mah said. "They didn't realize until then that the baby had been left behind.
"We're not aware of this ever happening on an Air Canada flight before."
The parents were put into telephone contact with the little boy, and Parreno was put on another Air Canada plane to return to Vancouver to get him after the family's flight arrived in Winnipeg with the airline covering the cost of the two additional flights, she said.
Parreno had tears in his eyes when he returned to Winnipeg holding his son.
"I am relieved everything is OK ... but I was shocked," he said. "The staff at Air Canada took good care of him."