Five crew members of Canada’s Pivot Airlines (ZX, Toronto Pearson) have returned to Toronto after they were detained for nearly eight months in the Dominican Republic after discovering and reporting narcotics on their aircraft, the airline confirmed.

The two pilots, two flight attendants, and one part-time maintenance engineer arrived to an emotional welcome from family and friends at Toronto Pearson on December 1, 2022, after a Dominican Republic judge on November 11 permitted them to return home.

On departing from Punta Cana to Toronto on April 5, 2022, the crew had discovered and reported eight duffel bags with 210 kilogrammes of cocaine stuffed in the avionics bay of CRJ100ER C-FWRR (msn 7107). In doing so, they prevented a possible onboard fire and air disaster resulting from the added weight and unsafe location of the contraband, the airline said.

Despite following local and international laws and regulations, they were arrested and spent nine days in prison, reportedly under deplorable conditions. They remained under house arrest since they were released on bail after surrendering their passports pending further investigation. According to their unions, they had faced daily threats to their lives.

“The crew demonstrated incredible courage and resilience throughout the harrowing ordeal, which saw them wrongly detained in the Dominican Republic for nearly eight months. While we are relieved for the crew’s long overdue return, we know that this incident has taken a heavy toll on their lives and the lives of their families,” Pivot Airlines said in a statement.

Trade unions Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and Unifor had lobbied for the return of the crew members. “This crew did exactly what was expected of them by notifying the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, local authorities, and their company after discovering and reporting contraband on their aircraft, yet they remained trapped in this horrible situation for nearly eight months,” commented ALPA Canadian president Tim Perry.

According to flight tracking sites Flightradar24 and Radarbox ADS-B data, C-FWRR - which Pivot Airlines leases from Avmax Aircraft Leasing - was last recorded flying from Punta Cana to Santo Domingo Las Américas, the Dominican Republic capital, on September 27, 2022.