Just two hours into a WestJet flight from Toronto to Montego Bay, Jamaica, passengers had their trips unexpectedly cut short on Monday after a passenger claimed he had the coronavirus.
At some point during Flight WS 2702 the man stood up, announced that he was recently in China and had contracted the disease, according to Peel Regional Police.
“That announcement was shared by the flight crew to the captain and a decision was made for the plane to return back to Pearson [International Airport],” said Const. Bancroft Wright.
Passenger Julie-Anne Broderick says she and her family were concerned.
“We were just over Florida and all of a sudden we felt the plane do a pretty dramatic turn,” Broderick told CBC News.
“We were flying in the opposite direction all of a sudden and it said our final destination was back in Toronto. So we were very confused and worried.”
She says she saw the man taking a selfie and telling passengers around him that he had the coronavirus.
“The flight attendants came, gave him a mask and gloves and just told him that he had to move to the back of the plane” she said.
WestJet said in a statement the crew followed all protocols for infectious disease on board, including sequestering the man.
The captain informed passengers that, because of the incident, they couldn’t land in Jamaica or the U.S. and had to return to Toronto.
The captain said he believed it was a hoax, according to Broderick.
“I guess this guy thought it was a funny joke but it’s just really weird. We were all very frustrated, to just displace 240 people … it’s just so selfish. We’ve lost a day of our vacation,” says Broderick.
The plane landed around 2:10 p.m. ET and the man, a 29-year-old from nearby Thornhill, was arrested and charged with mischief.
He is scheduled to appear in court on March 9.
WestJet apologized to the 243 passengers.
Two flights were cancelled due to the incident. WestJet said it would add an extra flight on Tuesday, both to and from Montego Bay, for those affected.