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