Manitoba

WestJet flight with Winnipeg passengers unexpectedly grounded in Greenland

A group of travellers aboard a WestJet flight destined for Canada were temporarily stranded in Greenland Tuesday after the plane was unexpectedly grounded.

Potential mechanical issues related to aircraft cooling system to blame for diversion, airline says

Zach Stein said the WestJet flight he was on from London was grounded in Greenland Tuesday after air traffic control and the pilots deemed the plan unsafe to fly. (Zach Stein)

A group of travellers aboard a WestJet flight destined for Canada were temporarily stranded in Greenland Tuesday after the plane was unexpectedly grounded.

WestJet Flight 4 was headed to Toronto from London but was diverted when air traffic control and pilots deemed the plane was unsafe to fly about five hours into the flight, Winnipegger Zach Stein said.

"The pilot did a great job ... he kept everybody very calm," said Stein, who was among the 250 passengers and nine crew members aboard the Boeing 767.

The pilots landed at the Kangerlussuaq Airport in Greenland a short time later.

A spokesperson with WestJet said the flight was grounded due to a potential mechanical issue related to the aircraft cooling system. The flight landed fine and was met by emergency vehicles as a precaution, the spokesperson added.

Travellers were provided meals at the airport, and WestJet sent two Boeing 737s to Greenland Tuesday night to pick up the passengers and take them to Toronto in the morning.

Stein said he was impressed with how WestJet handled the situation.

"The staff did a great job, as WestJet usually [does]. They were professional, courteous, friendly, caring, answering questions."

'Nothing to do with lightning'

Stein said before the flight took off, an airline attendant announced the plane was hit by a "severe lightning strike" during an earlier flight from Vancouver to London. That put people a little on edge, he said, adding no one was told whether the diversion later was related.

Zach Stein was among 250 passengers temporarily stranded in Greenland Tuesday after their WestJet flight was unexpectedly grounded. (Zach Stein)

But WestJet maintains "this matter had nothing to do with lightning."

"That aircraft had flown from London to Vancouver the previous day, and while there had been lightning in the area around the airport when it departed [from] London, it was not hit," the spokesperson said in a statement. 

"As a precaution, a comprehensive, specialized lightning inspection was performed in Vancouver yesterday after it landed and no strikes were found."

WestJet plans to touch base with passengers who wish to be compensated for the delay.

"We apologize to our guests for this disruption to their travel plans. Safety will always be our top priority and we will never compromise it to operate a flight," the WestJet spokesperson said. "The decision to divert was appropriate and demonstrates that commitment."

With files from Leif Larsen

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