The father of two kids stranded at Kelowna International Airport on Christmas Eve says he is suing the airline that left them there. 

You may have read last week about Kelowna RCMP officers stepping up to help two kids stranded for Christmas, but dad Joey Kohinski said there is more to the story. 

“It was a hard gong show,” he said.

The youth ages 12 and 13 were travelling from Kohinski’s home in Edmonton back to their mother in Victoria and had a stopover in Kelowna, but their connecting flight was cancelled. 

Kohinski and his parents were back in Edmonton trying to manage the situation through Facetime with the kids, while failing to get any help from the airline, WestJet. 

“They (the kids) were upset and nervous but they kept their composure and they were able to follow instructions after their Grandma told them to calm down,” he said. “Their mom was at a party upset and crying.”

Kohinski said WestJet didn’t take any responsibility for the two youth and didn’t offer assistance, not even a food or beverage voucher or any support ensuring they were in contact with a parent.

“Once I was able to speak with a WestJet staff member on my daughter’s phone I was informed my children could remain alone in the airport until another flight could be arranged within the next couple of days and that the Airport Commissionaires could periodically keep an eye on them,” Kohinski said.

That is when he contacted the Kelowna RCMP for help. Constable Brad Hartridge arrived to help get the children safely secured at the Hampton Inn.

“The airport wouldn’t give them a hotel voucher because they are minors,” Kohinski said. “The hotel wouldn’t book them because they are minors. It took the RCMP going there to get the authorization form for me to fill out online. Otherwise, the kids would have spent the night at the airport.”

Kohinski said most restaurants nearby were closed for Christmas Eve, so the RCMP responded.

“The detachment had been delivered pizzas and gave what they had to the kids, along with snacks, candy and chips,” he said.

An RCMP release said the children went on a flight home on Christmas day, but that was erroneous. The way they got home took a lot longer and required an incredible effort on the part of family friends in Vancouver, Craig and Noah Desaulniers.

“My parents called a friend and asked him to pick the kids up,” Kohinski said. “His truck wasn’t working so he talked to his son who works for a Dodge dealership in Vancouver and they let them use a brand new vehicle to drive all the way to Kelowna and back. The main route was closed due to an accident. It was a 13-hour journey non-stop trip from Vancouver to Kelowna to the Tsawwassen terminal.”

The family friends arrived to pick up the kids early on Christmas Day. The same morning Kohinski received a rebooking email from WestJet stating the next available flight was on Boxing Day. He said it was the only contact he received, and leaving the kids alone in Kelowna for another day was not an option.

“These family friends didn’t know the kids but gave up their Christmas getting them safely home,” he said. “We are grateful for them and for the Kelowna RCMP.”

READ MORE: Kelowna woman loses case with airlines over 'direct' flights

Kohinski initiated a formal complaint to the airline a week ago but said he hasn’t heard back from the company.

He intends to take legal action against WestJet.

WestJet did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. 

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