Domestic Air Canada Flight Takes 2,700 Mile Detour Due to Winter Weather
A two-hour Air Canada flight turned into a 36-hour international journey with an unscheduled stop in the US thanks to bad weather that left the plane unable to land in the intended airport.
The incident meant that passengers were flown from Vancouver to Alaska, and then back to Vancouver again before they could actually get to their intended destination of Whitehorse more than a day later.
Air Canada flight 279 was supposed to fly between Vancouver and Whitehorse, the capital of Canada's Yukon region on December 16, but was unable to land after 15 minutes of circling the airpor because of the weather, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
An Air Canada spokesperson told the outlet that the flight was diverted "due to the weather limits for landing in Whitehorse."
Passengers actually thought the plane had landed. One flyer, Thea Rogers, told the CBC: "In fact, I thought we had landed. It kind of got that bumpy — [like] when the wheels hit the ground — and you know, that 'thunk.' And then it was this sharp up, up, up, up and everybody's like, 'Oh, I don't think we're landing.'"
The flight then made its way to Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage is around 490 miles from Whitehorse.
Aviation news website Simple Flying said the airport wasn't expecting the international flight, and that some passengers, expecting to only travel domestically, did not have necessary documents like passports with them.
Passengers were then told that they would be spending the night in Alaska, the CBC reported. But Rogers told the outlet that it was not clear at first if they would be able to leave the airport.
"Then they didn't tell us whether we were going to simply be sleeping on the chairs in the security area, or whether we would actually be able to leave. I didn't think we could leave, without passports."
They ultimately were able to stay in a hotel, and boarded a flight to Whitehorse the next morning — only to not be able to land again and and up being diverted to Vancouver, where they had originally taken off from.
One passenger, Roger Gauthier, told the CBC that the passengers "couldn't believe it" and that they flew over Whitehorse, seeing its lights below.
He said it was "total chaos" in Vancouver because they had to go through customs as an international flight.
The passengers were eventually able to reach Whitehorse on Wednesday — around 36 hours after their journey began.
In total, their journey was around 2,700 miles longer than it should have been, according to calculations by Business Insider.
Gauthier was critical of how Air Canada treated passengers throughout the ordeal: "Major lack of communications — since Monday."
But Lisa Schroeder, another passenger, told the CBC that she was grateful the pilot ultimately decided not to land in Whitehorse.
"Nobody can control the weather, and we were very thankful that the pilot made a wise decision."