Accidental tourist's long haul

MICHEL TASSE spent yesterday playing golf, recovering from possibly the longest day-trip in history. Instead of a 300-mile hop from Toronto to Montreal, where he lives, the businessman took a 7,000-mile detour.

It began on Thursday inToronto. His ticket was with Air Transat, a charter firm that also offers flights within Canada. "I was in the right hall," Mr Tasse said, "but the plane for London and Manchester was late. So there were two groups ... when I heard they were asking passengers to board from rows 30 to 39, I looked at my ticket and I had seat 30K. So I boarded."

The error was not noticed at the departure gate but should have been evident when another passenger claimed Mr Tasse's seat. Crew checked both passes and reassigned the other passenger. Mr Tasse said: "The lady next to me asked where I was going. I said `Montreal'. She said `I'm going to London.' I said `I think the plane's probably stopping in Montreal.' She said `I don't think so' ... I asked and it was not stopping. I asked for a parachute, but they wouldn't give me one." The Tristar stopped briefly at Gatwick but Mr Tasse was not allowed out of the transit lounge. At Manchester he was allowed off to phone home.

On the next leg - to Toronto - Mr Tasse was cheered by a rumour that headwinds might necessitate a fuelling stop in Montreal. But this was unfounded and in Toronto he was told to wait for a connection to Montreal. Mr Tasse's fortitude finally wavered: "My mood shifted from tolerance, to disappointment, to frustration." Air Transat eventually flew him on a rival airline to Montreal.

More positively, the diversion could boost tourism. Mr Tasse's impressions of Britain were:"Nice airports, beautiful weather, pleasant people."

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