A 28-year-old an who made a false claim that he had coronavirus, causing a Toronto-to-Jamaica WestJet flight to return to the airport, has explained why he did it.
The man named, James Potok, who has been arrested and charged with mischief and breach of recognizance, told Global News that he did it because he was looking to “get a viral video” to boost his profile as an artist, but admits the stunt was in “poor taste.”
“Well, I had my camera with me. I was looking to get a viral video. I was looking to get it up on all the social media platforms,” James Potok told Global News on Tuesday.
“It seemed to me like this was in poor taste, in retrospect. What I did, I stood up, I said, ‘Can I have everybody’s attention? I just came back from Hunan Province — and that was it.”
“I figured it would invoke some type of reaction, not on the plane. More people seeing on social media, going, ‘Wow, this kid’s got some balls,’ or, ‘This kid is crazy.’”
According to Peel Regional Police, Potok will appear in court on March 9.
In a statement, WestJet said Flight 2702, with 243 passengers on board, was on its way to Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on Monday when the flight was disrupted by an “unruly guest.”
The airline said the plane returned to Toronto, and “out of an abundance of caution,” the flight crew followed all protocols for infectious disease on board.
The airline also disclosed that Flights 2702 and 2703 were cancelled as a result of the incident.
Another passenger, Tiffany Richards, who was on the flight at the time of the incident said she was asleep when a man got up and made an announcement.
“What he basically said (is), ‘I need everyone’s attention. I have just returned from Wuhan, one of the capital cities of China, and it’s an epicentre for the coronavirus,” she recalled.
“I’m feeling really, really sick right now. I think I might be infected. I need everyone to stay away from me, like please don’t come near me.
“He repeated himself a couple of times, and that was that. And he sat down.”