WestJet passenger removed after headache complaint sets off coronavirus concerns

A musician moving back to Vancouver from Toronto says he was shocked when flight attendants removed him from a WestJet plane on Feb. 29, after he requested a pain pill for his headache.

Vladyslav Prystiazhniuk says that he was stressed out because he’d been busy moving and had not slept much the previous night so he asked the flight attendant for an Aspirin.

He says the flight attendant then asked him if he had a fever.

“I’m like ‘I’m not sure because I’m not a doctor, but I didn’t have one this morning,'” he responded, not realizing that answer would lead to him being removed from the flight.

He says the crew began to ask him whether he had been to Asia or if he had been in contact with someone who was ill.

“The next thing that happened they are telling me that I have to leave the plane,” said Prystiazhniuk.

He says he was told by the crew that he couldn’t fly for 48 hours because he might have the COVID-19 virus.

Prystiazhniuk, 26, says he then took an Uber to Humber River Hospital where a doctor gave him a clean bill of health to travel.

Back at the airport, he was allowed to board a later flight. But, he says the ordeal added hours of inconvenience and made him late for work the next day.

He claims he was showing no signs of sickness. He was not coughing, sweating or feverish.

In his view, crew members overreacted and should not have made him get off the plane, making him late for work the next day.

WestJet’s response

WestJet says Prystiazhniuk told the flight attendant he had a fever and that she followed protocol when handling the situation.

The company says its crew contacted MedLink — a service that connects airlines with a physician by phone — to determine whether the passenger was fit to fly.

“As safety is paramount, out of an abundance of caution our crew followed protocol as recommended by MedLink and requested a physician’s note for clearance to travel,” it said in a statement.

“Once WestJet received the required medical clearance, we accommodated this guest on the next available flight.”

Still, WestJet says it is important for all travellers to self-identify if they feel ill while on-board a plane.

‘Unreasonable action’: says expert

Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs agrees with Prystiazhniuk that WestJet overreacted by removing him from the flight.

“This was a completely unreasonable action on part of the airline. This is not a case where we can justify the airline’s action by erring on the side of safety, there was no issue here. This passenger was perfectly healthy,” said Lukacs.

He says if a passenger is ill they shouldn’t fly but that the decision needs to be made by a doctor in person.

“If a doctor had been there on the spot, he would’ve been able to check the passenger’s pulse, the passenger’s temperature if necessary and they would have verified the passenger is perfectly healthy, just has a headache.”

Lukacs believes WestJet owes Prystianzhniuk compensation for his wasted time and wages.


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