TERRACE, B.C. — The agency responsible for screening at Canadian airports says a "big mistake" was made when a retired social worker was prevented from boarding a flight because an all-female security crew refused to frisk him.
Robert Hart has an artificial hip that set off the metal detector at the airport in Terrace, B.C. in July. He was on his way to a family wedding in Ontario.
He says he agreed to be patted down by one of the four female Canadian Air Transport Security Authority officers on duty, but they cited a same-sex pat-down policy and refused. They wouldn't take him up on his offer to have his wife chaperon the search and there were no RCMP officers on duty to step in.
The only solution was to book another flight for when a male officer was on shift.
"It was a surreal experience," Hart said Wednesday from his home in Terrace. "I said to the lady, 'I always beep,' and she replied, 'You're not going to be on this flight.'
"You instantly get that feeling of this is too crazy for words ... This is just going to go sideways right now. I know it is."
He left the airport and took a later flight that departed when a male officer was on duty.
Hart complained to the security authority, which found his concern was justified.
"It was pretty easy," said the agency's Mathieu Larocque. "We made a big mistake. The screening officers at the airport should have been screening that passenger. He should have been allowed to get on his flight."
Larocque said the same-sex screening policy has been in place since 2010, but there are directives in place for situations such as Hart's. He declined to say what those were, but said that staff have been reminded of the procedures.
The agency apologized to Hart in a letter and suggested he file a compensation claim for the $100 the delay cost him.
Hart was impressed with how his complaint was handled and hopes nobody else will have a similar problem.
"The letter came through and was unequivocal: 'We have a policy and it wasn't followed,'" he said.
"They said that airport won't ever err on that side again and, in fact, they were going to make sure all other airports get that policy refreshed as well."
— By Bill Graveland in Calgary. Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
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