Gate 53 at Vancouver International Airport was possibly the merriest of all airport gates in the province Wednesday morning.
The 250 guests, which included dozens of sick kids, were surprised with story-telling by princesses, face-painting, a clown, and the requisite cookies while waiting to board a flight to the North Pole courtesy of Air Transat and the Children’s Wish Foundation.
The Christmas carolers during the check-in lineup and the high-fiving airport security were just the beginning of something special and when passengers felt a big mid-air bump 20 minutes after take-off, they knew exactly why.
Air Transat captain Mike Mucha announced Santa had climbed on board to cheers and the jolly fellow made his way down the aisles to hand out full stockings to every child while the plane made its 90 minute round-trip journey.
“It’s pretty inspirational,” said Jennifer Petersen, director of the B.C. and Yukon chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation. “It’s a really rare opportunity for our Wish families and our friends to be together. I love this day, it’s really special.”
Similar flights took off in Toronto and Montreal, and Air Transat gave the Foundation $221,000 from money collected as part of the airline’s Small Change, Big Hearts program.