James Potok

Man apologizes for coronavirus prank on plane but says it was blown out of proportion

James Potok, the reviled Canadian try-hard who ruined hundreds of vacations on Monday when he loudly implied aboard a WestJet flight that he had contracted coronavirus, wants you to know that he was just joking, okay?

Sure, the 28-year-old aspiring rapper from Thornhill, Ontario, is sorry for getting an entire flight turned around with his attempt at going viral — very sorry, as he says in a newly-published apology video.

He does, however, want the public to understand that his stunt was "blown out of proportion," and also that they can check out his cool raps online.

"I'm sorry for the distress and any inconveniences I've caused," reads the caption of his "public apology" video, posted to YouTube on Wednesday night.

"If you can all find it in you to forgive me feel free to check out my music, you can stream my content on all platforms and subscribe to stay up to date on content I create in the future."

Potok was arrested on Monday for making an unusual (and concerning) announcement aboard a Jamaica-bound flight from Toronto.

Witnesses claim that the young man stood up to shout that he had just visited China, and that was experiencing symptoms of the deadly coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 24,000 people worldwide and killed at least 490.

At the time of his outburst, Potok was one of 243 travellers aboard WestJet Flight 2702 — all of whom were forced to turn back just 30 minutes before touching down in Montego Bay as a result of what is now widely being referred to as his "coronavirus prank."

In his apology video, however, Potok maintains that "at no time did I say on the plane that I had coronavirus."

"The joke that I made was supposed to be taken as I had visited a Chinese restaurant in Hunan, not Wuhan," said Potok in apology video.

"When I said I was sick, it was supposed to be interpreted as me not feeling well from eating Chinese food," he continued, later elaborating that "the joke was supposed to be about the Chinese food. We have a restaurant here in Toronto... and I think it went over people's heads."

Few people appear to be buying this explanation, judging by the comments on Potok's video.

Whatever joke Potok was trying to make aboard the plane, it was admittedly for the purpose of creating a viral video — and the general public absolutely hates him for it.

Passengers aboard the flight who missed full days of their vacations, not to mention once-in-a-lifetime special events are likely even more miffed.

"I am here to apologize today for any issues and all problems that I caused to everybody involved in the situation: all the people on the plane who were rerouted and missed family meetings and weddings," said Potok in his apology video.

Clad in eyeglasses, a toque and his finest Roots sweatsuit, Potok read from a paper throughout the roughly five-minute-long video, which can best be described as cringeworthy.

"It was never my attempt to harbour fear or create a panic on the plane," said Potok in the clip. "Looking back at what I said, I am extremely disappointed with myself."

The aspiring Soundcloud rapper apologized profusely throughout the clip and promised that he will be "monitoring himself" extremely carefully moving forward.

"My tongue can hang me or put me on a very big throne," he explained. "And the other day it did the former. It got me in a lot of trouble."

"I did not anticipate this flight being turned around and everybody being inconvenienced," he continued. "Myself included."

Potok is scheduled to appear in a Brampton court room on March 9 to face charges of mischief and breach of recognizance.

"I am dealing with criminal charges now and I will make every attempt I can to express my sympathy and let everyone know that I screwed up," he promised near the end of his apology video, reminding viewers that everybody makes mistakes.

"I will be dealing with this like a man."

Lead photo by

POTOK Phillipe


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