Student misses mother’s funeral after flight cancellation
A MELBOURNE student has gone through the worst day of her life after flying home to meet her mum - only to be told at the airport her mother had died unexpectedly.
Compounding the terrible shock, she then missed her mother's funeral in Italy when her flight was cancelled at the last minute and the airline failed to rebook or refund her in time.
Satya Piccioni, a US resident studying her masters in communications at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology after already completing her undergraduate studies in Australia, was on her way home to visit her mother in Washington DC when her mother failed to turn up to meet her at the airport as planned.
"When I landed, I looked around me in the airport and couldn't find my mum. I messaged her and she didn't reply. I was shocked; she was expecting me to arrive," Ms Piccioni told news.com.au.
"Then in the distance I see my dad. He tells me to sit down and says 'something terrible has happened'.
"It was the worst day of my life."
Her mother, who migrated to the US from Italy, had died in her sleep on June 15, the morning her daughter was due to arrive home to visit during the winter university break.
As a formerly prominent member of the community of her hometown, her mother was to be flown back to the small Italian town of Rieti for the funeral.
After a service in her current home of Washington DC, Ms Piccioni began the task of organising the funeral for her mother's family and the Reiti community, which included flights for herself from Washington DC to Montreal, where she would get a connecting flight to Rome - the route she said would have been the quickest.
Her three younger siblings and her father - who was no longer married to her mother - decided not to attend the Italian funeral because they were preparing to relocate to Mozambique for their father's work. Ms Piccioni was left to represent them all in Reiti.
And if all went as planned, Ms Piccioni would have arrived in her mother's hometown six hours ahead of the funeral. But on the day she had organised to fly out her Air Canada flight never left the tarmac.
"The plane was delayed for several hours. We weren't allowed to deplane. After about an hour I spoke to the hostesses on board and even the pilot about my situation," she told news.com.au.
"I explained if I couldn't make it to Montreal for the connection to Italy, that I would be happy to get a different plane on a different route altogether.
"But they said because there were so many planes cancelled, none of us could deplane."
When passengers were finally allowed back into the airport hours after the plane had been due to leave, Air Canada staff offered to rebook her flight for the next day.
When she explained this would mean missing her mother's funeral, Ms Piccioni said the airport staff just referred her to a customer relations number.
"There was no sense of compassion, I was trapped on a plane on the tarmac for three hours, I just broke down crying," she told news.com.au.
Unable to afford another flight without a refund, she called the customer relations number hoping to get her money back and book another flight but was not able to get through.
"I never left DC. I was never rebooked. I never made it to Italy. I figured I would get a refund and make a new flight, I had already waited 10 hours at the airport trying to sort everything out.
"I didn't have the funds to simply book myself a new flight."
Ms Piccioni is still in Washington DC. She has submitted a complaint to Air Canada through the formal means she was advised to. She is still waiting to get a response from the airline and has not yet been refunded.
"Nothing can compensate what they took from me but it's disgusting that I haven't received neither an apology nor a refund," she told news.com.au.
"[Air Canada] were extremely rude. There were random strangers offering to help me. I was crying on random people's shoulders. They had the whole airport at their disposal to help me."
Ms Piccioni's mother, Lucia Grenna, was a prominent figure in the global fight against climate change, founding Connect4Climate in 2011. She was farewelled in a public funeral in Reiti on Saturday 1 July at the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. Ms Grenna had recently visited her hometown and the nearby villages affected by the earthquake that devastated Italy in August 2016 to help.
News.com.au contacted Air Canada for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.