2 Hour Air Canada Flight Becomes Mammoth 36 Hour Journey

An Air Canada Flight expected to take two hours from Vancouver to Whitehorse has had to detour through the USA, then back to its origin, before reattempting its original route. The crazy journey saw passengers stranded for up to 36 hours.

Photo Air Canada SNow
Air Canada A319 lands in winter. Photo: Acefitt via Wikimedia

What are the details?

88 lucky Air Canada passengers managed to snag a free tour of the Alaska and North Western Canada regions as their aircraft took 36 hours to fly a relatively simple two-hour route.

Flight AC 279 was expected to fly the 798.27 nautical miles journey north from Vancouver to Whitehorse in around two hours/ However, due to a variety of weather events, the flight was unable to make it to its scheduled destination.

What happened first?

According to CBC.ca, the aircraft had an uneventful flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse but, after around 15 minutes circling the airport, decided that the conditions were unsafe. The area had been blanked by snowstorms and visibility was incredibly low.

The cabin crew communicated that they would abandon their landing attempt much to the surprise of passengers onboard. One of the passengers onboard, Thea Rogers, spoke to 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 aircraft then made its way towards Anchorage, Alaska in an attempt to find a runway with clear landing conditions.

The US airport was not expecting the passengers to arrive and there was much confusion when the plane landed. These passengers had been traveling domestically so some had limited ID and few had a passport on their person.

“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.”

Fortunately, after about 30 minutes sitting on the tarmac, US border security let them through and they stayed at a nearby hotel.

Attempt number two

In the morning, passengers reassembled at the airport to fly with their aircraft to Whitehorse.

However, after yet another landing attempt the aircraft decided to return… to Vancouver.

Flight Aware
Attempt number two. Notice how the aircraft actually attempts to land. Photo: Flight Aware

“We flew over Whitehorse, we could actually see the lights down below,” passenger Roger Gauthier said to CBC.

Because passengers were entering Canada, they had to fill out customs forms and arrive via the international terminal.

The final attempt

34 hours after the original flight left, passengers were yet again directed to the terminal and asked to fly back to Whitehorse.

This time conditions had improved and the aircraft was able to land.

Flight Aware
The third and final attempt makes it. Photo: Flight Aware

Passengers were relieved but complained that Air Canada kept them in the dark most of the journey.

Air Canada has been reached out to for an official comment.

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