Drukair re­fused to fly pa­tient

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - By Staff Re­porter

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.”

(Pic­ture cour­tesy: Druk Air Cor­po­ra­tion)

The na­tional air­line is un­der heavy so­cial crit­i­cism af­ter it re­fused to fly a pa­tient go­ing for treat­ment abroad but Drukair jus­ti­fies do­ing so

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