More than 130 passengers from Korean Air flight KE72 which performed an emergency landing at the Comox Valley Airport Tuesday afternoon following a threat, are on their way back to Vancouver Wednesday afternoon.
Around 2 p.m., one of three buses carrying stranded passengers returned to the airport to catch their flight to Vancouver, which is scheduled to depart later in the afternoon.
The flight will refuel and receive catering and supplies before resuming its course to its original destination of Seoul, South Korea.
Lindsay Hall, a passenger from Vancouver waiting at the airport, said despite the inconvenience, he appreciates the effort from staff and crew.
“From the airline crew when everything started, to all of the people on the ground, the Canadian Forces, the RCMP, everyone has been really great. They’ve been kind, generous, and most importantly patient,” he noted.
Wednesday morning, passengers gathered in the lobby of the Best Western Westerley Hotel in Courtenay to listen to an update from James Koh, general manager of Western Canada for Korean Air.
He informed the crowd of passengers they need to be interviewed by RCMP at noon prior to continuing their travels.
“Our passengers will be be spoken to each by each … and they said it is normal procedure,” explained Koh. “I will then let you know of the next step.”
Around 5:30 p.m. April 10, the flight, which departed from Vancouver International Airport at 2:35 p.m., was intercepted by two United States Air Force F-15’s, operating as part of NORAD – North American Aerospace Defense Command – confirmed Lt. Trevor Reid, public affairs officer at 19 Wing Comox.
Korean Air said a U.S. call centre received the threat about 25 minutes after the flight left Vancouver.
The aircraft, which sat approximately one kilometre south of the Search and Rescue hangar, was immediately surrounded by emergency personnel, including a bomb disposal unit.
Calgary passenger Evan Orich explained he was flying to Seoul, and then to Cebu, Philippines in order to visit his wife’s family.
“We were three hours into the flight when the captain said we’re turing around because of security issues. We went back to Vancouver then they turned us around again to go to Comox,” he noted.
“We landed there and sat on the plane for about another hour, then they took us off 25 at a time,” he said, adding passengers in the cabin remained calm.
“That’s probably why they didn’t say too much because they probably didn’t want people getting in too much of a fluster. I think that was an okay move from them, but maybe once we were on the ground, tell us a little bit more.”
Passenger Lyle Letawsky was on his way to Manila, Philippines to meet his wife for his honeymoon.
“(My wife) is waiting patiently, and I had to phone the hotel and rebook for a couple of more days just because I’m not sure when I’m going to arrive there,” he said.
Letawsky noted following the removal of bags and a security check, passengers waited nearby for a bus, and then were taken to the base mess hall for food and refreshments.
“That was the only frustrating part for me; if it was a bomb threat, wouldn’t you want to get everyone away from the plane?” he asked. “But I have to give kudos to the military for feeding us and the flight crew — they did an excellent job on handling the situation as best as they could.”
“It’s life, you just have to roll with the punches and make the best of it,” he added.