A retired British couple were kicked off an Air Canada flight on Tuesday night, along with 23 others – with no explanation of what they had done wrong.
Richard and Patricia Brailey, aged 71 and 66 respectively, boarded flight AC866 to London Heathrow at Montreal International Airport without any problems.
But shortly after settling into their seats, armed police reportedly boarded the plane to drag the Braileys out.
Some 25 other passengers were ejected from the aircraft cabin at the same time and in the same manner.
Their son Patrick Brailey slammed the airline on social media, saying: “My elderly parents were escorted by armed police from @AirCanada flight AC866 along with about 28 other people.
“No explanation, their bags continued to LHR.
“A separate Air Canada employee in the terminal told them the dismissal was an order from the captain?
“No communication on board, but employee thinks removal must be due to ‘not wearing a mask or being drunk’.”
Mr Brailey called it “enormous confusion”, saying: “My elderly parents religiously wore their masks and were not drunk. I was left stuck in the terminal.
Richard Brailey told the Daily Mail“We had been waiting about an hour for the plane to take off when a staff member with a list of numbers arrived looking up and down the rows.
“They started looking at seat numbers and earlier pulled two young ladies three or four rows ahead of us.
“Then they pointed at us and told the police who were with them to get us out. We were totally blown away. We had just been seated in our seats normally with our masks on and couldn’t wait to get started.
The Braileys and other passengers were told they could not board another Air Canada flight for 24 hours after they were removed from the plane bound for London, and – since they had been disembarked – the organizing a replacement flight was now their responsibility.
According to other passengers on social media, the group that was removed included a pregnant woman, a couple with two children, several members of the Williams Racing Formula 1 team and an Aston Martin F1 team doctor.
“We were in total shock. I assumed there must be some problem with the paperwork or something,” Richard Brailey told reporters.
“I asked what it was and if I could speak to the captain, but was told I would find out later. It was a nightmare scenario.
“It was totally weird because there was no noise or aggravation during the flight. As far as I can tell, everyone was behaving properly, and we certainly were.
He added that the man next to them had slept under a blanket before being woken up and taken away.
Jess McFadyen, who works for Motorsport, filmed the altercation with airline staff and police, calling it “absolutely disgraceful”.
“Attendees randomly removed 23 people from the plane, including this elderly couple, a pregnant Williams team member and a family of four,” Ms McFadyen wrote on Twitter.
Her video shows a masked woman looking confused as a police officer and a man in a suit ask her to get out of her seat and remove her bag from the overhead locker. The woman appears to shrug her shoulders in astonishment at the others in the cabin before doing so.
Jay Egan, who was also on the flight, tweeted, “So our @AirCanada flight is delayed 3 hours and now the police are removing people from the flight for no reason and refusing to speak to anyone!”
He later added, “The chief steward was on a power trip! She acted like people were starting or getting drunk. Complete lies! Shocking treatment from many people on AC866.
Formula 1 commentator David Croft, who was at the Montreal airport at the time, claimed that a deported man was unable to take his carry-on bag and was left without his wallet or his passport.
Besides being abandoned at the airport and the lack of explanation, Patrick Brailey also pointed to the strange decision to leave the couple’s checked baggage on the flight after they were removed, asking: “It’s surely a risk for Security ?”
Airlines must match their passenger list with checked baggage before a flight can take off, with any baggage not attached to a flying passenger usually being removed.
The couple’s other son was able to book them on an Air Transat flight to London, paying £1,300 for last-minute tickets. They also had to pay for one night at an airport hotel.
Air Canada has confirmed that 25 passengers were “disembarked” from the flight.
A statement from the airline said: “”We are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident involving a group of 25 customers who were removed from our Montreal-London flight on Monday evening, due to disruptive behaviour.
“We understand that there are allegations that during the removal of these passengers, some unrelated people were also disembarked.
“Some of these disembarked customers were rebooked this morning and are on their way to their final destination. Once our investigation is complete, we will follow up with customers.
A Montreal Trudeau International spokesperson said police were called to deal with “a situation on board an aircraft on the evening of June 20 and escorted passengers off the aircraft, at the request of the captain board and crew”.
An Air Canada spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the disembarkation of passengers from flight AC866 on June 20 was related to non-compliance with Canadian government regulations on masks, the Canadian Aviation Regulations, as well as instructions from our crew.
“The action taken was for the safety and benefit of the other 266 passengers on the flight. We regret that some customers who were not involved have unfortunately been disembarked. We have since contacted those we identified as mistakenly removed for us. apologize and address their concerns.