If you're used to flying domestic, you've probably got the routine down to a tee. You don't even need your passport, you can carry a limited amount of cannabis or CBD products, and the shuffle through security is a whole lot less daunting than the customs process. This week, over 200 Air Canada passengers boarded what they thought was a domestic flight from Toronto to Vancouver. The plane made an unexpected stop in Washington State and the left the Air Canada passengers stranded with little support.
According to Yahoo News, the flight was forced to make an emergency landing at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on the evening of Sunday, November 3, 2019. What should have been a five-hour domestic flight turned into an incredibly stressful 13-hour journey for the 255 passengers.
Harold Wax, a passenger on the flight, told CTV News that he was deeply concerned with the lack of support from Air Canada after the passengers spend three hours on the tarmac.
Next, they were told to get off the plane and that someone would be waiting for them. Wax explained that no one was waiting for them and they “definitely felt an abandonment from Air Canada."
Wax also told CTV News that the passengers were told to make their own arrangements to then be reimbursed by Air Canada later.
Beyond the confusion and frustration from the unexpected landing, passengers were also concerned about what the possession of CBD or cannabis could mean now that they were in the U.S.
A Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland told CTV News that these individuals were at risk of a lifetime ban for the United States and that Air Canada should have done more to protect them. Kurland says they should have been altered with enough time to decide to “trash their stash” if they wanted.
In an email sent to Narcity, Air Canada explained that the flight was diverted to Seattle “due to fog at YVR as well as at the surrounding BC-area airports.” At the time, Seattle was the closest airport that wasn’t affected by the fog and was able to take a plane of that size.
After landing, “the aircraft subsequently developed an unexpected mechanical fault requiring a maintenance inspection,” Air Canada explained.
“Air Canada is handled by a partner company in Seattle, and special, exceptional arrangements were immediately made for the US authorities to enable all customers to clear customs without the usual documentation.” They also told us that they were not alerted of any issues while the 255 passengers cleared customs.
That said, they did note that there was, in fact, only one customer service agent helping the 255 concerned passengers with baggage, customer service, and liaising with customs.
Customs is already stressful enough, we can only imagine how an unexpected trip to the U.S. while carrying CBD could be.