Stroke victim kicked off WestJet flight after falling asleep
Published Friday, November 2, 2018 6:11PM PDT
A Burnaby, B.C. man who recently suffered a stroke is accusing WestJet of humiliating him after he was kicked off a flight to Cuba.
After a red-eye flight from Vancouver to Toronto with his wife and son, Stephen Bennett took a common prescription sleeping pill when he boarded their final flight to their Caribbean destination.
"I went to sleep. Next thing, I wake up, my wife is nudging me. I open my eyes and apparently there was two vacationing nurses onboard," he told CTV News.
A flight attendant wanted the nurses to check on Bennett after his wife was asked to wake him up for takeoff and he didn't rouse right away.
"Even the nurses said he's OK," Bennett's wife, Josefa Sapelino said.
But that wasn't enough for airline staff, who ordered Bennett off the plane to be checked by paramedics.
"The paramedics said 'There's nothing wrong with him' over and over and they still wouldn't take me on the flight," he said.
The family could only watch as their flight took off without them.
"It's so embarrassing. I couldn't explain my emotions, especially to my husband," Sapelino said. "He's disabled. He couldn't walk by himself. He needs a wheelchair."
The family paid out of pocket for an Air Canada flight, half-heartedly making it to their destination late.
"We didn't really enjoy our vacation at all," Sapelino said.
"We hardly took any pictures because it was always in the back of our mind everything we had lost," Bennett added.
WestJet stands by its decision to leave Bennett behind, telling CTV in a statement "when our crews observe a guest who is exhibiting signs of not being fit to fly, we will, out of an abundance of caution and in adherence with Transport Canada's regulations remove the guest from the flight."
But one passenger rights advocate said airline staff did not respond to the situation appropriately.
"It's not a question of what they thought. The question is: what was the situation and what was the evidence? It was clear in this case the passenger was perfectly fine, perfectly healthy," said Gabor Lukacs, the founder of Air Passenger Rights.
Bennett says he's planning on suing WestJet over the incident.
"Where on my flight ticket does it say you can't fall asleep?" he said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson