Drukair refused to fly patient
Adisgruntled passenger took to social media to share the incident after Drukair refused to fly her ill father for treatment from Paro to Bangkok.
Identified as Dolka Tenzin on Facebook, she wrote a post, narrating the events that transpired while trying to board Drukair flight no. KB518 bound for Bangkok.
She was accompanying her father who was suffering from sinusitis with chronic ulcer on nose for treatment in Bangkok. However, when they boarded the plane passengers complained of the foul smell from the patient.
“There were 90 something passengers on board,” she wrote in her post. “Out of which 4 had disagreed to have my father on the flight.”
The post also said that the Captain of the flight decided to seek votes from passengers whether to have the patient on board or not. Majority of the passengers voted for having the patient on board. However, the pilot decided to deboard the patient for the sake of four passengers who were against having the patient on board.
“We requested Drukair and begged every single passenger but we were still taken off the flight,” she shared in her post.
Within hours of her post, many Bhutanese on Facebook came to her support. At the time of writing this article, there were more than 2,200 likes, 1,400 shares and 526 comments on the social media.
Most of the Facebook users lent their support to the victim and blamed the Drukair for failing to handle the case.
“I think the Drukair staff should know how to deal with situations like this,” commented one Facebook user. “I don’t think this was the best way to solve it.”
However, BT contacted the Drukair and got their part of the story.
The Captain of the flight said that Drukair acted in the best interest of all the passengers and for the safety of the aeroplane.
“But most importantly, I made the decision for the best interest of the patient and the escorts,” he said.
The patient has been checked in as normal passenger who had booked the J-class ticket. When the patient boarded the plane, passengers who were already inside complained of the foul smell coming out of the patient. Some passengers got out of the plane repelled by the smell and they refused to board the plane if the smell persisted. The flight was delayed which was supposed to take off at 11AM on Friday morning.
The Captain said that as the smell spread into the plane, passengers started running to toilet to vomit and some ran out of the plane. Passengers were affected by the strong repelling smell. The Captain described the smell as invoking involuntary response to the stimulus that would result in lot of nausea.
“The smell was also a health concern for the operating crew also,” he said. “The emergency crew were already reporting nausea.”
“The situation was really becoming uncontrollable. People were really getting angry on board,” said the Captain.
Passenger with medical problem have to declare their condition when they travel on air. The patient carried the medical certificate which declared the patient was “fit to travel”.
“But when we contacted the Medical Doctor who had issued this certificate and reported about the smell, the doctor said he had overlooked the issue of smell. Since the patient’s vitals were fine and the patient was not in critical condition, the doctor told us to use the non-medical judgement to sort the issue,” said the Captain.
So the Captain called the patient escorts and discussed the situation with them. He told them that it will create lot of problem with the smell affecting all other passengers. The escort girl began to break down. But the Captain had to make a decision.
So he deboarded all the passengers to the airport lounge to seek their opinion on solving the issue. The standard operating procedure would not allow seeking opinion from the passengers, however, the Captain said he did for the cause.
“I told the passengers that I wanted a unanimous decision to have the patient on board,” said the Captain. “Although there were some show of hands to support having the patient on board, there were potential number of passengers not raising their hands. The passengers were really divided. It was like 50-50 vote.”
The Captain also let the escort girl talk to the passengers. But then passengers would argue with her. So the Captain knew these angry passengers would create problem during the flight.
“There was a potential safety threat to the daughter and the patient, and other escorts as well. They were going to be charged on board if we decided to fly the patient. The angry passengers could overpower the crew and the plane could be in distressed situation calling for emergency landing,” said the Captain.
The Captain said he knew such divided opinions would create undesirable situation during the flight.
“Therefore, in the interest of patient and for the safety of the flight, for the safety and wellbeing of all the passengers, I had to make a decision to deboard the patient,” said the Captain.
“Personally it was a heartbreaking decision for me. But professionally, as a captain, as a person responsible for the safety of everybody, I had to do what I had to do,” he added.
The Captain said there were 109 passengers in total. But after deboarding the patient and the escorts, there were 104 passengers who were safely flown to Bangkok the same day.
The Deputy Managing Director of Drukair, Rinzin Dorji, said, “We regret to have such situation but we would like to refund all the ticket costs to the patient and his escorts.”
The national airline is under heavy social criticism after it refused to fly a patient going for treatment abroad but Drukair justifies doing so