B.C. man planning legal action after being kicked off WestJet flight for sleeping

Click to play video: 'WestJet passenger kicked off plane after falling asleep'
WestJet passenger kicked off plane after falling asleep
WATCH: WestJet passenger kicked off plane after falling asleep – Nov 3, 2018

A Burnaby man is planning legal action against WestJet, after he says he was kicked off a Cuba-bound flight for sleeping before takeoff.

Stephen Bennett says he took a doctor-prescribed sleeping pill after boarding the plane in Toronto in October.

READ MORE: After 60-hour delay, WestJet passengers might get $1,800 each in compensation

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Bennett, who suffered a stroke several months ago, said he now suffers severe pain in his legs which makes it challenging for him to fly.

“Because of the neuropathies I have all over my body, [the doctors] wanted me taking some kinds of narcotics,” he said.

LISTEN: Back on the Beat: ejected for falling asleep on an airplane

He says while the plane was still on the ground his wife woke him up at the behest of airline staff and told him there was a problem.

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“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 towards us and they were saying we had to get off the plane.”

READ MORE: Peter Watts: Passengers’ rights when flying

He said a nurse on the plane and said he was fine, but staff told him he had to disembark the plane to be checked by paramedics.

“[They said] that I had to get off the plane, there was no manners, no politeness,” he told Global News.

“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, they don’t need us.”

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WATCH: BC man kicked off WestJet flight after falling asleep before takeoff

Click to play video: 'B.C. man kicked off WestJet flight after falling asleep before takeoff'
B.C. man kicked off WestJet flight after falling asleep before takeoff

In a statement, WestJet said that it cannot discuss specific situations due to privacy rules.

But it said when its flight crews observe a passenger who is exhibiting signs of not being fit to fly, they are required to remove them from the flight out of an abundance of caution because of Transport Canada regulations.

“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 regret the inconvenience to our guest when situations like this occur,” reads the statement.

That is an explanation that Gábor Lukács, the founder of Air Passenger Rights, argues doesn’t hold water.

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READ MORE: What should be in new air passenger bill of rights? Government launching consultations

“This was unwarranted, unjustified, the passenger did nothing wrong, did not have any medical condition, paramedics confirmed he was fit to fly,” he said.

“The people who determined he was not fit to travel had no medical [training and were] acting on their own without legal justification.”

Lukacs says when a passenger is inconvenienced this way, they should be offered reimbursements, extra benefits and extra compensation.

As an example, he pointed to a previous case in which a family was removed from an Air Canada flight when their daughter threw up because of the smell in the aircraft’s toilet. He said in that instance, Indian courts ordered the airline to pay more than $60,000 in restitution.

In the end, Bennett and his family missed their flight, and in order to keep its vacation booking in Cuba, had to book a separate flight with Air Canada, at an additional cost because the next WestJet flight was a week later.

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“You have to be patient and you have to work with people, you can’t just judge them immediately,” he said.

-With files from John Daly and Jill Bennett

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