Coronavirus Hoax Forces Westjet 767 Back To Toronto Over Florida

On February 3rd, a WestJet flight from Toronto, Canada to Montego Bay, Jamaica was over Florida when the crew decided to divert back to Toronto. The reason? A man stood up during the flight and claimed to have contracted the novel coronavirus after having recently been to China.

WestJet 767
The flight was operated using a Boeing 767-300. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons

What happened

Approximately two hours into WestJet flight WS2702 from Toronto to Montego Bay, Jamaica, a man stood up and announced that he was recently in China and had contracted coronavirus.

According to the CBC, the announcement was shared with the cockpit, and the decision was then made to return back to Toronto Pearson International Airport. Speaking with the CBC, a passenger onboard said the following about her experience:

“We were just over Florida and all of a sudden we felt the plane do a pretty dramatic turn…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.” – Julie-Anne Broderick

Broderick says that the man was seen taking a selfie, telling passengers around him about his condition. She continues by saying that flight attendants then gave him a mask and gloves and instructed him to move to the back of the plane.

Returning to Toronto

Coronavirus Hoax Forces Westjet 767 Back To Toronto Over Florida
The flight path of WestJet 2702, turning around over Florida and returning to Toronto. Photo: FlightRadar24

The captain informed passengers that, because of the situation, they were unable to land in Jamaica or the United States. The only option would be to return to Toronto. The captain reportedly informed passengers that he suspected that it was a hoax.

The plane landed back in Toronto at approximately 2:10 p.m. local time. Simple Flying contacted WestJet for comment and the airline provided us with this statement:

Law enforcement and EMS personnel were requested to meet the flight upon arrival in Toronto. Out of an abundance of caution, our crew followed all protocols for infectious disease on board, including sequestering an individual who made an unfounded claim regarding Coronavirus.” – WestJet spokesperson

Ruining plans of nearly 500 travelers

Reports indicate that there were 243 passengers on board the flight – passengers who had their winter vacation plans disrupted. The situation is made even worse as there were probably just as many travelers waiting in Montego Bay for that same aircraft to take them back to Canada.

WestJet said that all of the affected travelers were moved to an extra flight. The same aircraft flew as WS4100, departing Toronto this morning, landing in Montego Bay just moments ago.

Coronavirus Hoax Forces Westjet 767 Back To Toronto Over Florida
WestJet has four Boeing 767-300ERs, once operated by Qantas. Photo: Gatwick Airport

Conclusion

According to CTV News, police have confirmed that a 29-year-old man from Thornhill, Ontario was arrested and faces mischief charges. In fact, he is scheduled to appear in court on March 9th.

In conclusion, the hoax will have cost WestJet a great deal of time and money as it manages the hundreds of passengers affected.

What do you think should be the penalty for the troublemaker? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment!

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