Kelowna, BC airline passengers sue low-cost carrier Swoop for defamation

Two Kelowna, B.C. Dive customers have filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia against the low-cost carrier’s parent company, WestJet, and two employees of the airline.

Jodean Batiste and Andre Henry alleged in the lawsuit that they were defamed by the airline and its employees during and after an August 10 incident where the British Columbia couple said they were removed from the Swoop flight before takeoff.

Batiste previously spoke to Global Okanagan about the incident, saying he left her “naked and scared” and that she believed the couple’s race was the reason the situation escalated.

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The notice of civil suit, filed in Kelowna on Oct. 5, said Batiste and Henry were initially not seated together on their Swoop flight from Toronto. But a passenger seated next to Henry agreed to switch seats with Batiste.

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However, the lawsuit alleges that a flight attendant, identified only as Hannah, became angry when she noticed the switch and said changing seats before takeoff was not allowed due to the aircraft weight and balance issues.

The flight attendant told Batiste she would be charged for the seat change, and Batiste indicated she would be willing to pay additional fees, according to the lawsuit.

A flight crew supervisor was then brought into the conversation and the stewardess allegedly accused Batiste of giving away his attitude, according to the civil suit.

According to the lawsuit, a safety demonstration took place and the plane was prepared for takeoff, but the plane then returned to its gate and Batiste was asked to leave the flight or the police would be called.

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The lawsuit says police were called and then Batiste and Henry were escorted off the plane and through the airport by officers.

The civil suit said all of this happened despite the other passenger involved in the seat change informing staff that he had agreed to the seat change, with other passengers telling the crew supervisor to conduct that it was the flight attendant who was acting inappropriately towards Batiste, and neither was the combat crew. supervisor or the flight attendant talking to Henry about the situation, and no one answering Batiste’s question about why she and Henry had to get off the plane.

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The lawsuit also says that while three passengers were involved in the seat change, only the two black passengers were escorted off the flight.

Following the incident, the lawsuit said Batiste and Henry were “now living a nightmare of embarrassment” and had to pay $2,000 for round-trip tickets to Kelowna.

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The lawsuit alleges the flight attendant made false allegations against the couple during the flight, among other things, claiming they were preventing the plane from taking off and not following instructions.

The document goes on to allege that a Swoop pilot, identified only as Roberts in the lawsuit, made defamatory and false statements about Batiste on social media between August 10 and 12.

The lawsuit said those social media statements included allegations that Batiste was not telling his story honestly and had “cursed” various staff members.

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The civil suit alleges that the company itself also made a false statement to the media following the incident, implying that the passengers were a security risk and should be deported due to their behavior.

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The Kelowna couple’s lawsuit said the couple suffered emotional and psychological harm as a result of the defamation.

A response to the civil claim has not yet been filed. Global News has contacted WestJet for comment.

In August, Swoop told Global News it had launched an investigation into the matter and Batiste said the airline had apologized and offered to reimburse the couple for the replacement flight.

“Swoop has zero tolerance for racism and discrimination of any kind. We strive to make all travelers feel welcome and comfortable and regret that this was not the experience some travelers had on this flight. We are reviewing the incident internally and have been in direct contact with Ms. Batiste to address her concerns,” Swoop said in a statement sent to Global News in August.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as reimbursement for lost wages and expenses.

– with files by Jasmine King

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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