Unfair? Woman Forced Off Plane for ‘Excessive’ Lavatory Use

A woman with Montezuma’s Revenge was kicked off a WestJet flight leaving Mexico as it prepared to take off. Journalist Joanna Chiu kept going to the bathroom during the plane’s boarding process, and crew decided that she made one too many trips to fly.

She said that the medication she was taking was making her feel better, and that she was kicked off the plan so quickly that she left her money behind on the aircraft. Despite not having cash, the airline wouldn’t provide her a hotel room or taxi. They rebooked her for the next day, but wouldn’t give her any confirmation – telling her just to show up at the airport and ask then.

The woman filmed the interaction and a WestJet supervisor, she says, told her that her booking for the next day would be cancelled too unless she deleted the video.

According to WestJet,

We sincerely apologize to Ms. Chiu for the inconvenience and discomfort she experienced during her recent travel experience.

While unexpected illness can occur while travelling, maintaining a safe and healthy environment for all guests and crew members is paramount. In circumstances where a guest is deemed unfit to travel due to illness, our crew must make difficult decisions in the name of safety.

…We apologize for any communication failures throughout her journey and will review our procedures to ensure any guests in a similar situation in the future receive the appropriate support and guidance.

This advice from the passenger is wrong and selfish, but underscores an important truth:

If you are unwell, and the airline knows it, they may not let you fly. They will be worried that your condition will worsen inflight and then they will need to divert. That is expensive to the airline and a massive inconvenience to other customers. It is far better to just inconvenience you rather than a hundred other people.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Gary

    As a pilot that has flown for 50 years I can tell you that you will never feel better at 35000 feet than you did on the ground and it is illegal to knowingly take a sick passenger from one country to another country, besides it is a bad idea.

  2. Re: her advice, it has a bit of truth insofar as the FAs and pilots aren’t medically qualified to figure out who is medically safe to fly. The problem is that few passengers are qualified either, and even those that are have a conflict of interest.

    If in doubt, ask your doctor or even one of those telehealth docs.

  3. I have no empathy for an entitled, spoiled, journalist person.

    She should stay home and b##ch about Canada and how they welcomed her family here.

  4. Had that been a cruise ship, it’d have been the same result.

    The last thing an airline wants is a spreading gastro virus on a 4+ hr flight.

    If she’s wasn’t particularly ill, then she should have had the presence of mind to remember her purse.

    That’s not WestJet’s fault.

    Filming in an airport in foreign airports? That’s not WestJet’s policy. Some airports in Mexico are operated by the military. All are guarded by soldiers with automatic weapons. Probably not a good idea. Even for a “journalist”.

    The “journalist” should know better.

    If you’re sick, stay home. Period.

  5. Absolutely the prudent thing to do. She could have had something very contagious like a norovirus that could have made many more unsuspecting and innocent ill.

  6. If you keep going during boarding you’re probably going to keep going during the flight–even when they want you in your seats.

  7. The journalist should be placed on the global interpol watchlist for the lack of intelligence evidenced by her belief that it is “okay” to attempt air travel (commercial or charter) while experiencing an active e.coli dysentery event.

    In addition, the journalist’s belief that it would sound credible that “she left her money” with her traveling friends also sounds….. amateur.

    Kudos to WestJet for protecting the pax that the journalist would have… soiled.

  8. Remember the recent DL flight that had to return to ATL due to a similar event?
    Case Closed!
    Picard

  9. I was traveling with my teen daughter and her friends, and as we were checking in at the airport counter to depart Lima and return to the US, one of the girls vomited. Despite her protests that she was fine, the airline, wouldn’t let her board the plane until a doctor declared her fit for travel. So we were forced to spend an additional 3 days/2 nights in the JW Marriott, waiting for a doctor to make a housecall. It was great! All expenses were covered by travel insurance. We passed a lot of time hanging out at the Larcomar Shopping Center in Miraflores and Parque Kennedy.

    Turns out that unbeknownst to me, the group had been partying all night before our early morning flight, and the girl had a really bad hangover.

  10. Haha diarrhea. Gary with the win. The points and miles world would be so dull without a blog to cover this shit.

    Also, I hate people who complain about their airline woes on social media. On the other hand if she didn’t we can’t laugh about her diarrhea.

    Gary, do the one again about the pilot that like called it an airborne weapon or whatever it was. Good times.

  11. Ron Bell said: “If you’re sick, stay home. Period.”

    A problem here is that the airline stands to make tons of $$$ if you no-show and as a result have to change to a pricey walk-up fare (or lose your ticket value entirely in basic economy).

    If Ron’s idea is to be the implied social contract, I think it has to be paired with allowing all ill passengers to pick a new flight at no extra cost. That’s tough to implement, since we’d doubtless have many people who want to change flights for various reasons get “sick” with something non-falsifiable.

  12. Don’t they make anti diarrhea medicine or sell it at hotels/airports? I’m pretty sure it could of been controlled by 2 hours prior to takeoff, unless gastro intestinal 24-48 hr flu? And people if you do have noro-virsus please stay home or at your hotel… Nobody else wants your virus!

  13. People don’t realize that if you divert a flight, there is a cascade effect: that aircraft’s following flights don’t leave when scheduled, and then more flights are delayed because they’re waiting for the passengers on those. Thus, diverting a flight is horribly expensive for the airline, and always horrid for the passengers.

    I’ve had the FA try determine whether to eject me from the plane just for breathing hard (I am anemic and was wearing a COVID mask, so I took it off). I’ve seen them put someone, who had the flu and fainted, on to an ambulance before they would depart. Someone had a grand mal seizure in the row in front of me, and they had an MD determine that they could go on to the destination – the captain came out to talk with the doctor. And just yesterday they had us all remain seated while they wheeled a woman out at the destination.

    There are enough people on a plane that somebody is going to have a problem with every departure. The only fair thing for everyone else that person can do is stay off.

  14. WestJet did the right thing in removing her when she was sick. Montezuma’s Revenge is pure fiction from my experience of months worth of time spent over many trips to Mexico.

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