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WestJet has ‘little tolerance’ for intoxicated flyers

Lilia Ratmanski, 25, is released on bail at the Brampton courthouse on Thursday August 28, 2014. A booze-fuelled fight between two women who were allegedly drinking and smoking in an airplane bathroom prompted Sunwing to turn a Cuba-bound flight back to Toronto, the airline said.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The two allegedly drunk women on Wednesday's Sunwing flight to Cuba are among hundreds of Canadians who have caused trouble in the skies in the past decade.

There have been at least 263 alcohol-, cigarette- or marijuana-related incidents on Canadian flights, or flights passing through Canada, since 2005, according to an analysis of Transport Canada aviation data.

And if you've ever been lucky enough to witness one of them, odds are you were flying WestJet. A total of 205, or 78 per cent of all reports, were for incidents on WestJet planes.

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WestJet's high numbers aren't necessarily an indication of more troublemakers aboard, company media relations adviser Brie Ogle said in an e-mail. Rather, it's "a direct reflection of how often and how consistently we report alcohol and cigarette-related incidents."

"We have little tolerance for those who would jeopardize the safety on board our aircraft, and the only way we can ensure those committing infractions are dealt with appropriately is to track them consistently," Ms. Ogle said.

Those infractions include a time in 2008 when, on a WestJet flight from Montreal to Winnipeg, a passenger was discovered smoking in the lavatory. Shortly after, he was "observed rolling cigarettes in his seat and had taken his shirt off. He would only respond to French," the report said.

It was later confirmed he was smoking both cigarettes and marijuana on board the flight. The information was collected based on word searches, including "alcohol," "intoxicated," and "cigarette," in CADORS, Transport Canada's public aviation database.

Air Canada, the country's biggest carrier, sat a distant second with 13 reports. "We are fully compliant with all reporting requirements," said company spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an e-mail.

Taken as a whole, the number of incidents reflect only a fraction of the passengers onboard planes. WestJet's 166 reports from January 2010 through June 2014 account for 0.00021 per cent of all its passengers over the time period.

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