It was a harrowing flight for about 70 Yellowknife-bound passengers Monday night after an extreme air-rage incident forced their WestJet flight from Calgary to be diverted to Fort McMurray.
According to one passenger, a Yellowknife resident who did not want her name used, an intoxicated male passenger had to be put in restraints at the back of the aircraft after he struck a female passenger.
“He was drunk and shouting obscenities,” she said. “At one point mid-flight, he got up and lurched at a woman who was across the aisle from him minding her own business, not travelling with him, and struck her.”
He then made his way towards the front of the plane, according to the woman.
“(He was) staggering down the aisle and bumping into a few people before stopping a few rows from the front to badger a fellow,” she said.
The female passenger said at that point, flight attendants moved in and maneuvered him back to his seat. She added that he would not stay seated and became aggressive with the flight attendants.
It was not believed the woman who was struck was seriously injured.
Another Yellowknife man who was on the flight with his family – Jordan “Bray” Mernickle – said at one point, the man threw a cellphone at one of the flight attendants.
It did not hit her, he said.
He and the female passenger both commended the flight attendants for being professional and polite even while they were trying to dodge his abuse and cellphone.
According to the woman, the attendants were able to recruit a couple passengers until they were able to get a restraint system in place at the back of the plane.
“He continued to yell and curse, then was stomping his feet hard, struggling to free himself,” she said. “Then he started yelling about having a bomb in his suitcase and we were all going to die, at which point people started getting upset.”
Mernickle identified himself as one of the passengers recruited by flight attendants to help restrain the man.
“He was sitting right in front of me,” he said. “He was acting very odd, talking to himself and staring at me. After a long day of flying from Ottawa I was in no mood for his shenanigans and I was more than happy to help.”
Mernickle said he’s not a hero, and said he only did what anybody would do in a situation like this. He said flight attendants did a good job, but added they did not seem to know how to use the restraints and suggested perhaps they should receive a little more training on that.
Mernickle described the unruly passenger as an Indigenous man – probably in his mid-40s.
Both of the people who spoke to Yellowknifer said as they were landing in Fort McMurray, two other male passengers, apparently intoxicated, also started causing problems.
“Once on the ground, a couple of other guys who were drunk and angry about being cut off were asked by the flight attendant if they would be respectful for the remainder of the flight,” said the woman. “They talked amongst themselves for a minute and then chose to get off as well.”
She added the flight, scheduled to land in Yellowknife at 11:15 p.m., finally arrived at 1:22 a.m.
RCMP in Fort McMurray confirmed a man was removed from the flight by two Mounties without incident and arrested. They would not identify him, nor say what, if anything, he had been charged with.
“(He) was held in custody until sober,” stated Cpl. Trri-Ann Doebald in a news release.
A WestJet spokesperson confirmed the incident happened, but referred all other inquiries to RCMP and Transport Canada. Transport Canada officials have not responded as of press time.