ATLANTA - Several Georgia students will not return home until Saturday after being stuck in China for several days due to a booking mix-up involving a school trip. The group of 20 students from Elite Scholars Academy in Morrow had been scheduled to return from their China trip Tuesday, but that's when they and their chaperones discovered the booking problems.
The group had booked round-trip tickets for the school trip but when they arrived at the Shanghai airport to return to the United States, they learned they had no flights.
In a statement to FOX 5 and News Radio 106.7, Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah blamed the mix-up on a travel agency.
In her statement, Mah said, "We have looked into this and it turns out that this group booked their travel through an agency to fly Atlanta-Toronto-Beijing and that they intended to return Shanghai-Toronto-Atlanta. However, when they arrived at the airport in Shanghai on May 24 for the return flight they realized that the agency had erred and actually booked them to leave from Beijing. They had no booking or tickets out of Shanghai."
"It was a challenge to accommodate an unexpected group such as this, but we were able to rebook them on the first available flights and we reissued their tickets. For us, the effect of this situation is that we lost potential bookings and revenue from other customers on their originally scheduled Beijing-Toronto return flight because those seats were purchased but not used by the group."
"We waived the normal additional fees for a last minute booking, which can be substantial, and charged a regular change fee of $250."
Most of the students and chaperones returned to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport late Thursday night, but a few students and a chaperone remained in China. "I'm not going to sleep until she gets home," said parent Ora Kennedy whose 15-year-old daughter who went on the China trip.
Kennedy said she received a call from the school Tuesday saying the students didn't get on the flight and would return Wednesday. Then she got a call Thursday morning, this time from her daughter.
"2 a.m. this (Thursday) morning, my daughter is crying on the phone. And I was like 'What's going on?' And she said 'Mommy they left us at the airport,'" said Kennedy.
According to Kennedy, most of the students were supposed to fly out Thursday morning with three chaperones. The remaining students would fly out later with their history teacher, but somehow five students, Kennedy's daughter included, didn't make it on the flight.
"I said 'Can I speak to the chaperones.' She said, 'Only five of us here,' and she named the kids. I said 'OK, calm down, tell me what happened,'" said Kennedy.
School officials said the students were properly chaperoned. Kennedy said she never felt her daughter was in danger and doesn't regret sending her on the trip. "Even though I'm worried, I'm happy she went and this experience, there's no way she can get this again," said Kennedy.
Kennedy said she hopes her child and the rest of the students are home by Friday night.