By Andrea Romano
August 15, 2018
Ryerson Clark/Getty Images

Even your worst navigation mistake likely pales in comparison to the detour that a Canadian man took that got him 1,400 miles in the wrong direction.

Christopher Paetkau, a wildlife photographer and filmmaker from Winnipeg, was booked on a First Air flight from Yellowknife to Inuvik, Canada on Sunday. That's supposd to be less than a three-hour flight, according to Google Flights.

But as the CBC reported, Paetkau somehow ended up on a flight east to Iqaluit, about 1,400 miles away from Inuvik. That’s quite a detour.

Paetkau arrived at the airport in Yellowknife on Sunday morning to find that the First Air kiosk computers were down, so airport staff were processing ticket information by hand, according to the CBC. He went to his gate and found that there were three departing flights, all about to take off. By the time Paetkau made it out to the tarmac with his ticket, he started following a big crowd of other passengers, thinking they were on the same flight.

“After the 15 minutes people start moving out, and I'm thinking, is this my flight? People are leaving. I need to get on this flight,” said Paetkau. “So now I'm following like a lemming, I'm following the rest of the people who are going on this flight.”

It was several hours, after the plane made a pit stop in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, that the flight crew realized the problem.

“She's like, 'What are you talking about? We're not going to Inuvik, we're going to Iqaluit,” Paetkau said. He ended up having to stay on the flight in order to return to Yellowknife and board the correct plane to his original destination. In typical Canadian fashion, he was actually in pretty good spirits about it.

“I am not upset. I guess you could say [I'm] grateful, because they handled it perfectly. A different airline might not have,” Paetkau said.

According to Paetkau, he was in the air for about 14 hours between flying to Iqaluit and back. First Air put him up in a hotel in Yellowknife before he got on the correct flight to Inuvik on Monday.

Dan Valin, a spokesperson for First Air, said in a statement to the CBC, "Although we are happy that Mr. Paetkau was able to ‘make the most of the situation’ in his words and that we were able to make his unexpected journey as pleasant as could be with our staff, we take this matter very seriously.” The airline is looking into how the incident occurred in the first place.

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