Seventeen Air Canada passengers weren’t screened properly at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, so all passengers had to go through security procedures again, right on the tarmac when they arrived in Canada.
News of the security lapse emerged mid-flight from Paris to Toronto on June 3. There were 325 passengers and 12 crew on board.
When they landed at Pearson Airport, all carry-on items and all passengers were scanned with a metal detector wand.
Air Canada explained that the 17 passengers were “misdirected” by staff at Charles de Gaulle after connecting from Sri Lanka.
They should have gone through an additional screening, but it didn’t take place.
However, in another statement, Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the passengers had been screened before boarding the plane in Sri Lanka, and had never left the ‘secure zone’ at Charles de Gaulle.
“We assessed the situation in consultation with Canadian government authorities and determined the flight was secure,” he told CBC News in an email on Sunday.
Despite this, Transport Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) requested another screening after discovering there were “passengers on board that had not completed pre-board security screening in Paris.”
CBC Radio host, Anthony Germain, was one of the passengers on board, and he told RT about when he first understood things were going wrong.
“When we landed, I knew something was different, because usually if you land at a big airport like Pearson in Toronto, the plane – especially the plane with more than 300 passengers – would normally pull up to the gate. I was with my wife, we had a vacation, and I said something is not right here because we are far away from the airport.”
An official came on board and informed passengers that they had only received notification of the flawed pre-board checks when the plane was already “halfway across the Atlantic.”
Germain believes this situation is extraordinary, particularly in light of recent events.
“I turned to my wife and told her, ‘this is very strange, given Paris and everything that happened in France over the last year.’”
When the passengers descended to the tarmac to be screened, there was a heavy police presence, and an array of mobile X-Ray machines. Everybody including the crew was screened again, Germain added, calling the situation “strange and alarming.”
“If you take a look at how many billions of dollars the modern world has spent to face the threat of terrorism, with everything that’s happened there [in Europe], it seems incomprehensible to me that anyone could get through security not properly screened.
“I don’t think this is an Air Canada problem. From what I can tell, from the answers that I received, this problem is squarely on the shoulders of whoever is responsible at Charles de Gaulle Airport,” Germain said.
In May, the French secretary of state responsible for transport, Alain Vidalies, said: “No other country does as much as France for the security of its airports.”
The situation comes almost a month after EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed into the sea on its way from Paris to Cairo.
At the time, an Australian civil aviation expert, Geoffrey Thomas, told RT the security system at Charles de Gaulle was good, but not impenetrable: “The one thing the industry does fear is the ‘inside job’ when you have an airport worker who might be associated with some groups.There’s always a possibility that something is smuggled on board.”