WestJet Airlines is investigating an incident where a Victoria-bound flight leaving Edmonton International Airport slid off a taxiway Friday evening.
WestJet flight 173, a Boeing 737-700, was heading to the runway for takeoff around 6 p.m. with 77 guests and six crew onboard when the aircraft went off the pavement.
An airline spokesperson says they suspect the very icy conditions are to blame for the incident. They notified Transport Canada, who they say is not going to investigate.
No one was injured and after the incident airstairs were brought to the aircraft and passengers were bussed back to the terminal before being helped by WestJet staff.
Fifty-five passengers were re-routed through airports like Calgary and Vancouver before ending up in Victoria.
The remaining 22 had to wait for Saturday to get back to Victoria.
“We thank everybody for their patience last night we are grateful we could get everyone home safely,” said a WestJet spokesperson.
Tom Caley, a passenger on the flight, says he hardly noticed the aircraft had gone off the taxiway.
“Where I was sitting plane came to a bumpy halt, the pilot came on about hitting a soft spot… I thought it was the snow blowing across the airstrip,” said Caley.
He says the engines were eventually cut, and multiple hard to hear announcements from the pilot and aircrew did not explain what had happened.
“One hour later we still had no idea what the plan was people on their phones saw the flight was being canceled.”
Caley says eventually, the flight crew stressed they were not being evacuated and had them exit the plan from the read by stairs to buses waiting below.
He adds that it was confusing that the flight attendants did not share what happened, and also told him the pilot did not know during the time that the flight was canceled.
“[we were] never told by anyone we were off the runway.”
He was routed through Calgary and Vancouver and says the staff during that process were extremely helpful and well trained.
“[WestJet] did well to get most people home.”
WestJet responded with the following statement after the passenger’s comments:
“WestJet apologizes to our guests on board flight 173 last night. While the flight was understood to have departed the taxiway, due to the snow around the aircraft, it was not immediately apparent whether this was the case. Our flight and cabin crews did their best to keep guests updated on the incident and next steps and we thank everyone on board for the patience they showed during this incident. In the background our guest solutions team was working to figure out the quickest and safest rebooking options for the guests. The cancellation notice may have ended up on phones before our crew communicated this and we apologize for that. We were working to get our guests off the aircraft and on their way to Victoria as quickly as possible. More than half our guests departed the same night for Victoria.”
Transport Canada has not yet returned an inquiry from CHEK News.