It’s a huge fear for novice, nervous flyers: getting on what you think is the right flight and ending up on an irreversible journey to the completely wrong corner of the world. While extremely uncommon, that’s exactly what happened to Christopher Paetkau, a Winnipeg man who accidentally boarded a flight to the Arctic. To be fair, he wasn’t exactly planning on a tropical vacation, anyway. On Sunday, the adventure and wildlife photographer and filmmaker meant to fly from Yellowknife to Inuvik, both in the Northwest Territories. Instead, he accidentally boarded a flight to Iqaluit, Nunavit, over 1,400 miles in the opposite direction.
But how could this happen? Even if you’re experiencing a moment of complete absentmindedness, airport technology should prevent such a massive mix up. Well, when Paetkau arrived at the Yellowknife airport, computers were down at the airline kiosks, which certainly didn’t help the situation. “There were three airplanes that are sitting out there on the tarmac,” Paetkau told CBC News, “and also three boarding calls happening simultaneously… and they’re all final calls.” It’s easy to see how things could get a little confusing.
Noting the chaotic atmosphere, Paetkau asked the First Air flight attendant, “Is this flight going to Inuvik?” Her response, thinking the question was a joke: “Yeah, eventually.” When the plane stopped over in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Paetkau got his first pang of suspicion that he might be on the wrong flight. But it wasn’t until he asked another flight attendant how long it would be until they arrived in Inuvik that he realized his mistake. “What are you talking about?” She asked. “We’re not going to Inuvik; we’re going to Iqaluit.”
Some travelers might freak out and demand an emergency landing, but Paetkau just rolled with it. He took the full flight to Iqaluit before taking a return flight back to Yellowknife. It wasn’t a total loss, however. Paetkau said he became friends with the flight attendant, ran into a friend on the flight back to Yellowknife, and now has a pretty crazy story to tell.
He also adds that the airline “handled it perfectly. A different airline might not have.”
First Air responded by calling Paetkau a member of its family.
We aim to please! Since you're buds with our crew and Captain, you're friends with the entire First Air family too! We expect a holiday party invite of course! https://t.co/SLezZQKJ9j
— First Air (@FirstAir) August 13, 2018
H/T: CBC News