Idiot Allegedly Jokes He Has Coronavirus On Flight, Results In Emergency Landing And Arrest

A Westjet plane lands at La Guardia International Airport in New York on July 29, 2018.
A Westjet plane lands at La Guardia International Airport in New York on July 29, 2018.
Photo: DANIEL SLIM (Getty Images)

If I were to ask you, “Hey, do you think it would be funny if I jokingly screamed I had coronavirus on a packed plane?” you’d probably respond, “Not at all, you fucking moron.” This was allegedly a conversation some idiot aboard a WestJet flight from Toronto failed to have with anyone when he did exactly that. Relax guys, it was a prank.


James Potok, a self-described “upcoming artist” and who sometimes goes by Potok Philippe, told CityNews Toronto in an interview, “I stood up, I said I just came back from Hunan province.”

The current Wuhan coronavirus outbreak was identified in Wuhan, which is the capital city of China’s Hubei province, not Hunan province.

“What were you trying to do?” the interviewer asked.

“Invoke a reaction out of some people and create a viral video,” Potok said.

“Okay, and why did you want to create a viral video?”

“Like I said, I’m an upcoming artist. The publicity was what I was really looking for.”

The WestJet flight that departed Toronto at around 10 a.m. on Monday was headed to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and had 243 passengers on board. Halfway through the flight, Potok allegedly stood up and made his announcement.

From CityNews’s story:

“About mid-way through the flight I stood up, pulled my video camera out—I was going to post it to Instagram, send it to 6ixbuzz so it goes viral,” he explained. “I looked around, I said ‘can I get everybody’s attention please’ and… I followed up by saying, word-for-word, I said ‘I just came back from Hunan province, the capital of the coronavirus… I’m not feeling too well. Thank you,’” adding that nobody laughed and about 15 minutes later all the airline staff were wearing masks and put him in a mask and gloves as well.


The pilot turned the flight around, back to Toronto Pearson Airport. It was here that Potok “began to second guess his actions.” When the plane landed at around 2:10 p.m., Potok was checked over by medical staff and declared free of symptoms. Then he was arrested. He’s been charged with mischief and breach of recognizance and is due to appear in court on March 9.

Here’s a video of him being taken off the plane.


Because of Potok’s actions, two flights were cancelled on Monday. WestJet apparently added an extra flight on Tuesday to and from Montego Bay for affected passengers.

Potok said, “I’m very, very sorry for my ignorance and not understanding that it’s an epidemic.”


Potok makes music videos. He has over 34,000 followers on Instagram(now set to private). He also has a YouTube and Spotify channels, reports Business Insider.

Here’s another interview.

I’m certainly not the first, nor will I be the last, when I say this guy is a moron. He sounds like one of those shitheels who run around and pull stupid pranks on people minding their own business. If I was en route to a vacation in Jamaica and some idiot turned my plane around for a dumb publicity stunt, I’d be out for blood.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.



I’m sure that regardless of his income stream some social media “influencer” jackass like this has pretty much no tangible savings, but I’d still like to see every single passenger on that flight sue his ass for every cost their delay incurred, from any missed business opportunities all the way down to any any extra travel tissues they bought.

Most “pranks” on people you aren’t personally friends with are dumb and shitty to begin with. Even ostensibly harmless ones still cause stress to people they don’t really need to be dealing with in a pretty shitty world. But on an airplane? I’d be ok with summary executions for anyone who admits to attempting to prank people on an airplane. Even if it doesn’t prevent a safety issue (and let’s be real any unplanned deviation from a flight plan, is an additional variable for potential problems), you’re making dozens to hundreds of other people who have their own lives to go about and their own shit to deal with stop all of that to put up with your bullshit so you can entertain a few other dickheads who are as stupid as you are.