A WestJet passenger from Burnaby, B.C. is now planning legal action after he was forced off a flight to Cuba earlier this month for falling asleep while the plane was still on the ground.
Stephen Bennett took a sleeping pill once he got on the aircraft Oct. 13, due to doctors’ recommendations. They suggested that he take narcotics when he flies to help with nerve damage and pain in his legs after a stroke two months ago, according to CBC News.
Bennett said his wife woke him up at the request of airline staff, who said he needed to be alert before takeoff in case there was some sort of accident.
Doctor confirmed health
Another passenger, who witnessed the exchange, told the broadcaster that Bennett was awake within five minutes. A nurse on the flight also assured the crew that Bennett was fine, but he was still told paramedics needed to conduct an examination off the plane.
“There was no manners, no politeness … The paramedics came and said there’s nothing wrong with him, he’s perfectly alert I can see it in his eyes, he’s good,” Bennett told Global News. He also reportedly showed the crew an email from his doctors, confirming that he was fit to fly.
WestJet didn’t comment directly on the situation, but said on Twitter that they were just following Transport Canada regulations by not carrying “a person whose actions or statements at the time of check-in or boarding indicate they may present a risk to the safety of the aircraft, the crew or themselves.”
They went on to explain that this includes people impaired by alcohol or drugs.
“We stand by our crew’s decisions and believe that what we have offered to this guest is reasonable under the circumstances,” the airline also told BBC News. WestJet offered to put Bennett onto a Cuba-bound flight a week later.
Passenger advocate Gábor Lukács said the airline’s explanation doesn’t hold up, calling his treatment “unwarranted, unjustified.”
“The people who determined he was not fit to travel had no medical [training and were] acting on their own without legal justification,” Lukács told Global News.
‘I’m ready to cry’: Bennett
Bennett and his family were not able to make it back to their flight before takeoff and ended up shelling out an extra $1,226 to get on an Air Canada flight in order to keep their hotel reservations. They still missed two days of their vacation and had to pay another $432 to stay in Toronto for two nights.
“They wouldn’t assist us,” Bennett told CBC News. “We’re financially hurt. I’m so emotionally hurt … I’m ready to cry right now just talking about it, because we lost so much money.”
Along with the initial humiliation, Bennett told CTV News that he and his family didn’t enjoy their all-inclusive vacation at all because of the incident.
“We hardly took any pictures because it was always in the back of our mind everything we had lost.”