Last August, Kate Martin checked into her WestJet flight from Vancouver to Toronto the night before its scheduled departure. When she arrived four hours early at YVR the next day and had difficulty getting her e-ticket recognized at the self check-in, WestJet staff told Martin her flight had been changed and she was already on board.
“To be honest I was amused,” said Martin. “In fact, I laughed and I said to her, ‘clearly not because I’m standing right here.’ But then I realized that, no, I was at risk that I could lose my flight and lose my seat.”
It turns out another woman with the same last name as Martin was in her seat on an earlier flight.
“It does make me wonder about how secure it is getting on to a plane because they do check your identification. But how closely do they look and how easy is it to put in wrong identification?” Martin said.
She’s not alone. Last Sunday, Jonathan Sutherland was shocked to learn another passenger with the same last name boarded his Vancouver-bound WestJet flight in Calgary.
WATCH: WestJet passenger not allowed to board flight after case of mistaken double identity
“My plane had already left with another passenger on it in my place,” he said.
SFU security expert André Gerolymatos says the similar incidents spark safety concerns.
“This is a security breach. We’re lucky it’s nothing serious, that these people were not terrorists or some other malevolence, but this is something that has to be fixed.”
WestJet claims neither incident was a security breach as all guests are screened by security and there was no risk to the public. Under federal law, it’s up to the airline to make sure the name on the boarding pass matches the ID at the boarding gate.
Travel expert Claire Newell says she has never heard of anything like this in her 20 years in the industry.
“It’s troubling and the only things that can come to my mind are that there was human error and they didn’t look at the ID properly. They didn’t look at the PNR (passenger name record) numbers correctly and somehow it all slipped through the system.”
Newell says another possibility, although remote, is a breach of the WestJet website.
Transport Canada is investigating Sutherland’s secret flier while WestJet says it is reaching out to Kate Martin to determine what happened. In her case, the flight had not yet departed so the other Martin in her seat was asked to leave the plane and Kate was booked on an another flight.