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Travel Woes

Sleepy Air Canada passenger wakes up in airplane hangar Add to ...

Kris Lines's welcome to Vancouver came in the form of a confused tap on the shoulder, urgently nudging him awake.

It wasn't a flight attendant or a fellow passenger, but a shocked mechanic, in a cavernous airplane hangar, where the head of sports law at Staffordshire University had been asleep for an hour and a half on the plane after the aircraft had landed, taxied down the runway and emptied itself of passengers and baggage.

I was just so dead to the world. I didn't think that I needed to set an alarm clock to get me up at the end of the flight. Kris Lines

"He said, 'Don't worry, take all the time you want: The flight landed an hour and a half ago.

"He was as surprised as I was to see me there."

Mr. Lines, now home in England, considers himself a frequent and fairly seasoned traveller: He has been to the United States, Australia and Dubai on multiple occasions and is used to the vagaries of long-haul flights. But nowhere he's travelled makes it a habit of leaving passengers asleep in airplane hangars by themselves.

"I just put it down to a local customs kind of thing."

After almost 24 hours of travel, a trans-Atlantic flight during which he kept himself awake with copious amounts of caffeinated soft drinks, a stopover in Calgary and a smooth trip through customs, Mr. Lines thought he was home free for the last leg of his journey from London's Heathrow airport to Vancouver. By the time the westbound Air Canada flight took off from Calgary's airport on March 6, he was fast asleep.

"I was just so dead to the world. I didn't think that I needed to set an alarm clock to get me up at the end of the flight."

Getting out of the hangar, having his boarding pass photocopied and finding someone kind enough to drive him along the tarmac back to the airport - "once he stopped laughing," that is - wasn't a big deal, Mr. Lines said. The rest of his trip and the sports technology conference he had arrived to attend went smoothly.

But he's still shocked that in a security-heavy city playing host to the Olympics and Paralympics, no one noticed a passenger who stayed behind, asleep in his seat, only to be left to his own devices in a secure part of Vancouver's international airport.

"I had to take off my belt, my shoes to go through the security scanners. … Then I'm left alone in a secure area for an hour and a half," he said. "I wanted to make sure that Air Canada actually has plans in place to ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen on a regular basis."

Mr. Lines sent a complaint to Air Canada. What he got back was an e-mail from Maryann Morgan with customer relations, apologizing and promising him 20 per cent off his next flight.

This kind of thing has never happened before, Ms. Morgan's e-mail said. But "although the Flight Attendant advises he did look back into the aircraft to check for any passengers still on board, he did not walk through the aircraft cabin as he was engaged with handling the passengers in wheelchairs requiring assistance."

Although planes are normally "groomed" after deplaning, this particular craft was done for the day, the e-mail said.

Mr. Lines said he would have liked a more personalized response to the odd oversight, but doesn't plan to pursue his complaint further.

"Nobody I know has seen the inside of Vancouver airport hangars before. It's a nice thing to regale people with."

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