There's no shortage of complaints about airport security and poor airline service, especially involving the turfing of distressed passengers from flights. But at last, here's a mixup that took place in Canada that at least has a humorous side to it, but hasn't sparked a massive outcry.
Winnipeg-based wildlife photographer Christopher Paetkau, who has a thirst for adventure, had an episode on Sunday that doesn't involve wrestling polar bears or being chased by a musk ox. Instead, he found himself en route to a destination in the Arctic some 2,000 miles from where he wanted to go.
It started when he left Winnipeg on a flight headed west to Calgary, where he took a connecting flight north to Yellowknife. At that point, things started to go wrong. He thought he was heading on his next plane bound for Inuvik, nearly 700 northwest from Yellowknife. Instead, he wound up with a seat on a flight destined for Iqaluit, more than 1,400 miles east.
"Somehow I managed to go on the exact wrong airplane going in the wrong direction," said Paetkau. "I actually ended up [thousands of] kilometers east of Inuvik. That's pretty far in the wrong direction." Seriously, it's an honest mistake, right? Inuvik, Iqaluit, that's pretty hard to distinguish between the two when you think about it.
Maybe to a first-time traveler heading north of the Arctic Circle, but not Paetkau, whose profession has taken him to the far north several times. As it turns out, it wasn't his fault.
It turns out that the computers were down at the Yellowknife terminal forcing the staff at First Air, the airline in question, were handling all the tickets manually. It also didn't help that similar boarding calls for both Inuvik and Iqaluit at Gate 4 were announced simultaneously, which added to the confusion. Long story short, it turns out that he wound up on the wrong plane.
It wasn't until the plane was getting close to its Iqaluit destination that Paetkau realized he had boarded the wrong flight. The plane stopped for refueling at Rankin Inlet when he asked the flight attendant how long it would take before they reached Inuvik. When her face dropped, Paetkau got the message loud and clear.
Instead of complaining about the mixup, Paetkau took it all in stride, especially when the First Air staff did everything they could to accommodate him, including free lodging and airfare to Inuvik.
"I am not upset," he said. "I guess you could say [I'm] grateful, because they handled it perfectly. A different airline might not have." Paetkau has since filed the incident as one of the more humorous experiences as part of his trade, but First Air was not amused.
"Although we are happy that Mr. Paetkau was able to 'make the most of the situation' in his words and that we were able to make his unexpected journey as pleasant as could be with our staff, we take this matter very seriously," said one First Air spokesperson.