An escaped cat kept an Air Canada flight grounded for several hours on Wednesday.
Flight 603 was supposed to leave Halifax for Toronto just after 5:30 a.m. but the takeoff was delayed when a cat escaped from its carrier in the plane's cabin and fled to the cockpit. The feline bolted when the door to the carrier was inadvertently opened by a passenger who was attempting to put luggage in an overhead compartment.
"It's hilarious, really. It's so random," passenger Kyle Warkentin told CBC News.
Warkentin first heard about the trouble when a flight attendant announced they were looking for a cat. Ten minutes stretched into 20. More time went by with no sign of Ripples the cat. The attendants apologized for the delay.
"Then the engine turned off and the whole power on the plane turned off, and they said they were doing this to calm the cat," Warkentin said.
Air Canada allows small pets in the cabin, except on flights to Hawaii. The animal must fit and "stay comfortably" in its carrier, which must fit under the seat.
As the crew scoured the plane, the cat's owner repeatedly called out to the pet.
"We could hear, 'Come here, Ripples. Come here, Ripples,'" Warkentin said.
Warkentin could see into the cockpit at one point and said it looked as if it had been taken apart.
"It wasn't just a simple matter of trying to find it under someone's feet. It was actually in within the wires of the plane. So it was pretty bizarre how it got there," he said.
Isabelle Arthur, a spokeswoman for Air Canada, told CBC News in an email that the cat got into the cockpit avionics.
"Our flight crews were not successful in coaxing the cat out of the avionics bay so our maintenance crews had to open it from an alternative access panel, which took time to disassemble," she wrote.
Wiring on plane checked for damage
Ripples was eventually found and returned to its carrier.
Warkentin said they were told the flight couldn't leave until the wiring was checked for damage.
"The cat was kind of in some tricky spots so they wanted to make sure there was no wires bit through or something like that," he said.
Peter Spurway, a spokesman for the Halifax Stanfield International Airport, said it came down to the safety of passengers.
"We're looking at several hours of delay, which is very, very unfortunate. The primary concerns are let's retrieve the pet safely and then let's make sure that everything is proper for the plane to go," he said.
"You feel badly for the poor animal, which undoubtedly was terrified. At the same time there are dozens and dozens of passengers who are now going through a several-hour delay."
Warkentin, who was on his way to Saskatoon for a conference, said passengers were let off the plane and Air Canada workers helped them reschedule their connecting flights.
He said the owner of the wayward cat was very upset.
"She was shaking, the poor thing," he said.
Warkentin commends Air Canada for the way it handled the bizarre incident. But added, "they may have to make a new amendment to their policy on animal carrying."
For Spurway, the case of the escaped feline is a first.
"I have not encountered the cat loose in the cockpit before. In my chat with the Air Canada folks, my impression was this was new for them as well," Spurway said.
"Really, you need to keep control of [animals] — keep them in the containers or in the carry-on compartments so this type of thing doesn't happen."
Ariel Detraz, another passenger, considers it a "freak accident."
"I just feel really bad for the lady," Detraz said. "I think the cat has probably had enough trauma for its lifetime."
The flight left Halifax at 9:45 a.m., about four hours later than scheduled.
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