Out of the way: Westbound Greyhound passenger perplexed by 8-hour detour to Ottawa

A Petawawa, Ont., woman attempting to get to Portage la Prairie, Man., was flummoxed to find out her bus ticket required her to endure an eight-hour detour — in the wrong direction.

Elaine Wiebe said when she went to purchase her ticket from Greyhound's website, she chose the only option available to get from point A to point B, normally a 34-hour trip.

According to Greyhound's schedule, the bus left Petawawa at 4:50 a.m. on March 28, then travelled more than 150 kilometres east to Ottawa before backtracking to the station in Petawawa for a 20-minute layover.

Then at 12:50 p.m. — eight hours after embarking on its journey — the bus finally headed west toward Manitoba.

Wiebe said she didn't notice the awkward detour until she'd printed her ticket. 

"It's ridiculous," Wiebe said. "Eight hours of extra sitting is hard on the butt, especially when it's unnecessary."

Agents in Philippines, Texas

Wiebe immediately called Greyhound's customer service number, but could only reach agents in the Philippines or Dallas, Texas, who weren't familiar with Canada's vast geography.

One agent spent close to an hour on the phone with her to help sort out the issue, but the call dropped. 

"I was not going to call the Philippines back just to spend more time on the phone," Wiebe said. "I've probably spent close to eight hours already."

Frustrated, Wiebe went to the local Greyhound station in Petawawa to see if she could have an alternative ticket printed.

"They were kind of shaking their heads, wondering, 'What the heck?'" Wiebe said.

Agents told her they'd had complaints about the detour before, but couldn't print a different ticket because the Greyhound system only offered the one option.

"They're going, 'We can't just print you a ticket, there's only one schedule,'" Wiebe said.

Bus driver's decision

She emailed the company, but couldn't obtain a guarantee that she'd be allowed to board when the bus stopped in Petawawa for the second time.

"In order for you to be allowed to board the bus at 12:50 p.m. once it has come back, you will need to speak with our agents at your local Greyhound station and with the driver, however it is up to the bus driver to allow you to [board]," the company replied by email.

Wiebe said she was planning to take her chances Tuesday and try to board at 12:50 p.m. 

She even called the Ontario Provincial Police in Petawawa to see if they could step in if the driver refused to let her board, but officers told her the issue was not a police matter.

It was only after CBC got in touch with Greyhound with Wiebe's story that she received a guarantee.

Greyhound blames system error

Wiebe's situation was the result of a "scheduling issue due to an error in our reservation system," spokesperson Allison Morrison said in an email.

Morrison said the company's regional vice-president got in touch with Wiebe to assure her she would be allowed to board at the later time.

Greyhound also agreed to compensate her for the amount she paid for the unwanted Ottawa detour.

"It's a lesson in buyer-beware," said Wiebe, who booked the trip as a mini-vacation to visit her sister and 91-year-old mother, and who plans to fly back home.

"I appreciated their services, I enjoyed my trip last time," Wiebe said. "But I won't be taking the bus again if I see a ticket that takes me to Ottawa first."

By late Monday afternoon, Greyhound had updated its website so passengers travelling west from Petawawa now depart at 12:50 p.m.