A retired social worker from B.C. was prevented from boarding his flight when his artificial hip set off the metal detector at airport security and the all-female security crew refused to frisk him. 

Robert Hart was blocked from boarding his Air Canada flight on July 26 while he was on his way to a family wedding in Ontario.

It's not the first time he has flown and he knew his artificial hip would set off the metal detector, but it is the first time he wasn't allowed to fly. Hart and his wife checked in at the Northwest Regional Airport near their home in Terrace, B.C. 

"I smiled at the ... lady who was holding her [security] wand," he said, adding that he told the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) employees he had an artificial metal hip. 

"And the words that came out of her mouth were, 'You're not going to be able to board this flight. You can't take this flight. You have to be patted down by male CATSA staff and one is not available.'"

Northwest Regional Airport

Hart could not fly out of the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace, B.C. (Northwest Regional Airport website)

Hart asked security staff to contact their supervisor and he says he also offered to be patted down by a female CATSA screener, a male Air Canada agent or an RCMP officer.

"I said, 'What can we do here?' And [the CATSA screener] said, 'I'm sorry you're just going to have to book another flight. We're not prepared to negotiate at all on that.'"

Hart says he was told the small airport's CATSA crew had only two male screeners, one of whom was on holiday and the other was off duty. He was asked to come back when a male CATSA agent would be on duty, and as a result, his trip was delayed by nine hours. 

"It was just so stunning," he said. "I couldn't believe this was happening."

CATSA apologizes

The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority website states that "a physical search is always done by a screening officer of the same gender as the passenger."

But CATSA spokesman Mathieu Larocque says there are exceptions and says Hart should have been allowed to board his flight.

"I can't disclose these procedures specifically, but there are procedures to have passengers screened when there are no same sex officers," he told CBC News.

"We will apologize because it was our mistake. [Hart] should have been screened, he should have been able to get on that plane."

Larocque says the agency is now ensuring CATSA staff in Terrace and across the country are aware of these exceptions "so a similar situation does not occur again."

He said CATSA also has offered to compensate Hart for the expenses incurred from missing his flight.

Hart has accepted CATSA's apology, but he says he's still worried about overly zealous security keeping Canadians grounded.

He's also asking CATSA to change the information on its website to mention exceptions. 

"My hope is that this attention will cause a speedy change to the CATSA website and no more confusion ever."

To hear the full interview with Robert Hart, click on the audio labelled: Terrace man misses flight because female CATSA agents refuse to pat him down.

Read CATSA's apology letter to Hart.