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Toronto-Bound WestJet Flight Diverts to Winnipeg After Teenager Attempts to Open Plane Door

Toronto-Bound WestJet Flight Diverts to Winnipeg After Teenager Attempts to Open Plane Door

BY GEORGE MWANGI February 19, 2024 0 COMMENTS

A WestJet flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Toronto (YYZ) was diverted to Winnipeg (YWG) at around 4:00 p.m. local time on February 16. An 18-year-old passenger attempted to open a cabin door, creating a safety hazard that forced the flight to land prematurely. WestJet flight 710 (WS 710) operates six times weekly using a Boeing 737-700 aircraft, with the plane used on February 16 having registration C-GWBN.

 

The aircraft involved in the incident, with registration C-GWBN | Photo: Flickr

 

The Incident

 

The unruly passenger tried opening the aircraft's emergency door during the flight. Crew members and other passengers intervened and restrained him until further action could be taken. Although opening doors during flights at cruising altitudes is impossible due to high cabin pressure, the flight was diverted to remove the man from the aircraft. It is unclear why the passenger attempted to open the door.

 



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Airlines often choose airports to divert flights to based on their existing presence at the airport, maintenance facilities, and the airport's ability to handle the specific aircraft involved. YWG was chosen since it was the closest airport where WestJet has major operations, with Winnipeg being one of the airline's focus cities. A flight replay from Flightradar24 shows that WS 710 was flying over Montana before abruptly changing direction and heading to Manitoba.  

 

WS 710 making an abrupt switch in direction over Montana | Photo: Flightradar24

 

The Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA) released this statement about the incident to CTV News Winnipeg:

 

"Based on our role as a major airport in the middle of not just the country, but the continent as well. Manitoba is located in an area where there's a lot of major international flights travelling between the (United) States to oversea markets - Europe, Asia, the Middle East - so we're prepared with the infrastructure, the staffing levels are always ready for a diversion."

 



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Aftermath

 

An 18-year-old man from Victoria, British Columbia, was arrested upon landing in Winnipeg. He was charged with endangering an aircraft under Canada's Aeronautics Act and is scheduled to appear in a Winnipeg court on May 23. WS 710 later departed Winnipeg and flew to Toronto without any further issues. Data from FlightAware reveals that the flight left Winnipeg at 8:12 p.m. and landed in Toronto at 11:07 p.m. local time, around five hours later than usual. 

 

Photo: Jack Goldberg | AeroXplorer

 

The Aeronautics Act states about endangering an aircraft:

 

"No person shall engage in any behaviour that endangers the safety or security of an aircraft in flight or of persons on board an aircraft in flight by intentionally

(a) interfering with the performance of the duties of any crew member;

(b) lessening the ability of any crew member to perform that crew member's duties; or

(c) interfering with any person who is following the instructions of a crew member."

 

The maximum punishment the passenger could face is a CA$100,000 ($74,189) fine, a five-year prison term, or both if the charge is an indictable offense. He could receive a maximum penalty of a CA$25,000 ($18,547) fine, an 18-month jail term, or both if the charge is a summary conviction. His exact punishment and further updates on the case's status will be revealed after his court appearance in May. 

 



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George Mwangi
Aviation writer based in Washington, DC. Visited 21 countries on thousands of miles of flights.

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NEWS WestJet Canada Winnipeg Safety Incident Boeing 737-700 Investigation Unruly Passenger

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