Police say multiple charges are pending after a passenger had to be removed from a flight departing Yellowknife on Monday.
In a Tuesday news release, RCMP said the flight was “required to return to Yellowknife” after a “passenger had become unruly and verbally aggressive with the flight crew.”
Police said they responded to a call on Monday at 3:15pm, boarded the aircraft and arrested a 36-year-old man – who was not publicly identified – for violations of the Aeronautics Act and the Criminal Code.
Randy Demchuk told Cabin Radio he was a passenger on the plane, WestJet flight 3358 headed for Calgary. (While RCMP would not confirm the flight in question, the FlightStats website records WestJet’s Yellowknife-Calgary flight leaving its gate at 2:53pm but then returning by 3:30pm, departing the gate a second time at 3:39pm.)
Demchuk said he first noticed the man near the gate prior to boarding and said he appeared to be involved in an angry phone conversation.
“He had taken a call and let’s just say he was very upset, very loud, and very vocal,” Demchuk said.
Passengers boarded without further incident but the plane came to a sudden halt after leaving the gate.
“We’re waiting for a good 45 minutes. And you’re thinking, oh, maybe it’s something mechanical,” said Demchuk.
“But then a flight attendant said we were waiting for the RCMP. It was one of those things you usually only read about or hear on the news or the radio.”
Demchuk, who was seated too far back to have a clear view of any actual altercation, said the pilot made an announcement that stated “a potentially intoxicated person refusing to wear a mask had been removed from the aircraft.”
Many passengers were upset at potentially missing connections in Calgary, Demchuk said, but he felt relief alongside frustration.
“Full credit to the WestJet crew,” he said, adding staff were “about as professional and courteous as you could be in that situation.”
“I would rather have them err on the side of protecting the public, the pilots, and most importantly the flight crew,” he said, “who would have had to put up with this for the next two and a half hours and take that chance.”
Police asked anyone who witnessed the incident to contact Yellowknife RCMP at (867) 669-1111, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or submit a tip online.