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Holly Robinson Peete’s sons came to visit her in B.C. Air Canada stopped them from boarding their flight home because they didn’t have their parents’ credit card

A Hollywood actress who raised an alarm on social media after her sons were denied boarding by Air Canada merely drew attention to a strict airline policy that has been stopping some legitimate travellers from flying for years, an airline rights advocate says.

Holly Robinson Peete, the 21 Jump Street actress, has been in B.C. this month filming an upcoming Hallmark Christmas movie. In a post on Instagram, she said her sons had come to visit her in Vancouver from L.A. — but that they ran into unexpected trouble on their way home.

Robinson Peete had booked business class seats for her two sons on Air Canada. But, she said in the post, the boys — one of whom is a minor, she added — were denied boarding because the credit card interaction had been flagged for an extra security check, and they would have to show the credit card used to book the flights in person.

But at the time, Robinson Peete was too far away from the airport to come show the card, and she said the ticket agent refused to speak with her on the phone.

“When you’re a mama, you get your mama bear on, and if I was any closer to that airport I would have rolled up and handled it,” Robinson Peete said in a video posted to Instagram.

“I was very very upset, very disappointed, and I did not like the way they were treated.”

Air Canada’s fraud prevention policy allows the airline to require an extra security check when its automated system flags a seat purchase as possibly fraudulent, especially when it’s made at the last minute, according to the airline.

“The purchase regrettably was not validated in time for the customers to travel,” Air Canada wrote in a statement provided to the Star. “We have followed up with the customer as we recognize this did cause inconvenience.”

Credit card fraud, the company said, can cost Air Canada “tens of millions of dollars each year.”

But Gabor Lukacs, an air passenger rights advocate from Halifax, says applications of its anti-fraud rules such as this inevitably end up preventing legitimate travellers from boarding their flights.

“This is happening quite frequently and not just with respect to parents buying tickets for their kids,” Lukacs said. “I’ve seen this also happen with grown people where one person buys a ticket for another person.”

He said Air Canada is in the right to try to protect itself from credit card fraud — but that they should have another way of verifying purchases that wouldn’t leave customers stranded, such as by contacting them ahead of time and letting them know they have to verify their purchase.

“The effort to prevent credit card fraud should not go to the point where they prevent legitimate travellers from travelling,” he said.

A similar scenario happened to Jackson Clark about 10 years ago. Clark’s mom had booked him a flight from Vancouver to South Korea, and dropped him off at the airport. When he was asked for her credit card for verification, he says he was lucky — she was still in the airport getting Starbucks at the time.

“Luckily she was around and able to show it to them, and I was able to get on the flight,” Clark said.

Lukacs said that even close calls like this should be a wake-up call for airlines to change their policies on credit card checks.

“People should be concerned about it because this could happen to everybody,” he said.



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