Castor woman denied boarding of flight because of medical disability

Keith and Angela Weeks with their children. (Photo submitted)

Keith and Angela Weeks with their children. (Photo submitted)

Travelling is stressful at the best of times; throwing in the holiday season, a pandemic and any of a hundred other complications that can arise can do nothing but add to that stress.

The Weeks family, from just outside of Castor, already had to change their plans once over the Christmas season, and they ended up having to a second time.

They had intended to travel to Abbotsford to visit family and take in a Vancouver Canucks game.

However, with the flooding that swept through the region a few weeks prior, wiping out highways, they decided to change their plans.

Instead, the family travelled to Brandon, Man. to spend time with other family members for a time, before splitting up, with Angela flying to B.C. while Keith and the kids spent some time with friends in Big River, Sask.

On Jan. 2, 2022, Angela’s sister took her to the airport to catch her flight to B.C. which is where things became even more complicated.

The ticket was booked with Swoop Airlines and according to Keith, who was called during the interaction, trouble began as soon as Angela and his sister-in-law approached the desk.

“The guy was questioning whether to even let Angela on the plane,” said Keith.

Angela is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, a progressive illness which causes her limbs to move in jerky motions.

According to Keith, the attendant at the Swoop desk wouldn’t let Angela on the plane as she could “pose a danger to other passengers” due to those motions.

From what Keith has been able to tell about the interaction, the Swoop member spent over 40 minutes on the phone with MedLink, the commercial airline medical authority, to determine if Angela would be allowed to fly.

The answer to that question ultimately proved to be no.

“They said they wouldn’t fly her anywhere, or that she would need an attendant to go with her,” said Keith.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

With Swoop not flying Keith, Angela and her sister talked, and they decided to try and find Angela another flight to Abbotsford.

They headed over to another airline counter at the Winnipeg airport.

Apparently due to the conversation the Swoop desk attendant had with MedLink, the airline agent, who had been willing to find Angela a flight, was unable to book her as they found her to be on a “no-fly list.”

“(The agent) claims that Swoop told MedLink that Angela wet her pants,” said Keith.

“It’s all just hearsay. Whatever they said put her on a no-fly list.”

According to a media release by Swoop, when a question arises about a traveller’s fitness to fly, “Swoop agents consult with medical professionals who can further assess and provide recommendations on how to proceed.”

“In this instance, it was determined that Ms. Weeks would not be able to travel unaccompanied resulting in a denial of boarding,” said Swoop media officer Kelsey Trainor, via email.

“We understand how frustrating it is when travel doesn’t go according to plan and have apologized to the Weeks’ family for the experience.”

Due to Angela being unable to fly, Keith and his sister-in-law agreed to meet in Regina the next day, the approximate half-way point between the two and about 9-hours one way driving time.

Since his sister-in-law lost a day of work to drive Angela to the meet up, Keith requested compensation for her lost day and his driving time in addition to the reimbursement for the tickets.

As of Jan. 25, Keith says he has been reimbursed for the tickets but nothing else he has asked for.

“And now, they don’t seem to be responding to me,” said Keith.

As for recourse about Angela being placed on the no-fly list, Keith isn’t sure about how to get her off of it, or if it is worth the fight.

Because of Huntington’s progressive nature it’s not that much longer until Angela will be at the point where she will need someone to fly with her anyways, according to Keith.

“A person can always plan something so someone can go with her,” said Keith.

“I don’t know how far a person can push it.”