Two Kelowna residents are suing an airline after being escorted off a plane by police.
On Aug. 10, Jodean Batiste and Andre Henry were flying back home to Kelowna from Toronto with Swoop, a low-cost carrier owned by WestJet. Court documents claim that Swoop issued a false statement to the media.
After boarding the plane, Batiste asked a flight attendant named Hannah, about switching seats to be beside her partner. Hannah is also named as a defendent in the suit, claming she made false allegations to the plaintiffs as well as Swoop investigators and other employees.
Hannah told Batiste that she would have to pay a fee to switch seats and allegedly said that Batiste could make the switch after boarding was completed.
Soon after, a man boarded and sat in the open seat beside Henry.
Henry asked the man if he would be willing to switch seats with Batiste so they could sit together and the man agreed.
When Hannah noticed the seat swap, she allegedly became upset and the man then explained that he had agreed to switch seats.
Hannah then explained that switching seats before take-off was not allowed due to weight and balance concerns with the aircraft.
Batiste live-streamed much of the incident on her Instagram account and has since made additional social media posts.
According to an Aug. 10, Instagram post, Batiste said that she responded to the balance concerns by saying “are you calling me fat?”
Hannah told Batiste that she would be fined for the switch and according to the lawsuit, Batiste agreed to the charge. On Instagram, Batiste wrote that she took question with the charge since the man agreed to switch and he was not being threatened with a fine.
Batiste claims that she was not instructed to return to her original seat.
Then, the flight crew supervisor came over to speak with Batiste.
According to Batiste’s social media post, the supervisor said that the issue was not about switching seats, but was about Batiste’s attitude.
Court documents state that passengers spoke up in support of Batiste, telling the supervisor that actually, it was Hannah, the flight attendant, who was acting inappropriately.
Then, as the plane was getting ready for take-off, the documents claim, Hannah told Batiste to remove the blanket from her lap, which Batiste claims she did.
Shortly after, Batiste noticed the plane had started returning to the gate. She was then asked to leave the aircraft quietly.
Both reported on court documents and Instagram Batiste claimed that a supervisor said that if she did not leave, police would be called.
According to Batiste’s Instagram, Batiste said that she was asked to leave the plane because the staff were not comfortable flying with her and she said “I am not coming off.”
Then, the Toronto police escorted the couple off the plane.
Once back in the airport, the pair purchased tickets with WestJet to fly back to Kelowna and have since been reimbursed.
“The plaintiffs are living a nightmare of embarrassment,” reads the lawsuit.
Batiste and Henry allege that the incident was fueled by racism, as three people were involved in the swap, two black and one Caucasian, and only the two black people faced repercussions.
Additionally, the court documents claim that Hannah used racially coded words such as “you make me uncomfortable” while in conversation.
During the incident, the pilot of the aircraft, who called himself Roberts, joined the Instagram live from his cell phone while in the cockpit, and began disagreeing with Batiste’s claims.
He commented saying that there was “zero racism as I was the pilot of the flight and am a black man.”
Roberts added that the flight attendant is also black.
The pilot said that Batiste was asked more than three times to return to her seat for takeoff and was told that once airborne, she could make the switch.
Roberts said, “this is not a Swoop rule, this is an International Airline rule.”
Batiste and Henry are suing for damages as well as a defamation claim against Hannah and Roberts, who is believed to be the pilot of the plane. Court documents claim Roberts mislead the public and made false statements on Instagram about Batiste. The documents also allege Roberts repeated the false allegations intentionally and that he stated Batiste played “the race card”. Due to the defendants’ alleged actions, the plaintiffs claim they suffered emotional and psychological injury.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.