A B.C. man who had recently suffered a stroke is planning to take legal action against WestJet after he was removed from a Cuba-bound flight for sleeping before takeoff. He claims he was humiliated and didn’t get a refund on his $1,000 ticket after he was kicked off his flight and stranded at Toronto’s Pearson’s airport.
Stephen Bennet claims he took a medically-prescribed sleeping pill after boarding his flight in October. Since he had a stroke recently, he suffered from severe pain in his legs which made it difficult for him to fly on an airplane.
“Because of the neuropathies I have all over my body, [the doctors] wanted me taking some kinds of narcotics,” he said.
According to WestJet, the staff were acting fully within their jurisdiction because they are required to use an “abundance of caution” when determining whether passengers are fit to fly. They claim that if these procedures are not taken it could lead to more serious issues once the flight takes off.
However, Bennet doesn’t see it this way. By his account, his ousting was completely unjust because he was wide awake before takeoff and consulted multiple medical professionals before deciding to travel. Bennet claims he “felt like [he] had no rights”.
He says that when the plane was still grounded, airline staff had asked his wife to wake him up and tell him there was a problem.
“There was four or five beautiful women looking at me, two were nurses, one was a stewardess, my wife, and a nice couple from Ireland that were across the seat from us,” he said.
“And then I noticed that there was, it looked like, ground crew coming toward us and they were saying we had to get off the plane.”
Two paramedics took him to the boarding ramp in a wheelchair in-order to check his vitals and determined he was fit to travel. When they reported this to the WestJet crew, the crew still would not allow him to re-board the plane.
“I was in tears,” said Bennett. “They became the medical team, the judge and the jury.”
Lukacs, the founder of Air Passenger Rights, says that when a passenger is inconvenienced this way, they should be offered reimbursements or compensation.
He offers example of a previous case where a family was removed from an Air Canada flight. The two parents claimed their daughter had vomited due to the smell in the plane’s toilet. In this case, Indian courts forced the airline to pay over $60,000 in reimbursements.
Nonetheless, Bennet and his family missed their flight in the end. They were still able to continue their trip to Cuba, but only through booking a separate flight with Air Canada (at an additional cost)
WestJet issued a statement in defense of their actions:
“These decisions are not taken lightly, but are made for the safety of the guest in question, other guests on the aircraft and our crews. We stand by our crew’s decisions and believe that what we have offered to this guest is reasonable under the circumstances.”