A patient scheduled to travel to India for specialised treatment has been left stranded at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) after she was ejected from the plane.
Wangari Ndumia, 25, was whisked out of a flight together with her sister after differences emerged on her fitness to fly.
While her sister, Ann Ndumia insisted that she was in a stable condition to board the plane that was making a stop in Abu Dhabi before connecting to Delhi, India, the officials of the airline claimed she was not fit.
This is despite the two having boarded the plane, already seated and was just waiting for the flight attendants to allocate her sister a favorable seat with enough leg room.
However, as soon as all the passengers had boarded, a call was made and what followed was the security officers directing them to leave the plane.
Ann said this was the second time they were being denied a chance to travel. The first time was on Tuesday where the airline also did not allow them to check in.
“And they (airline) refused to refund us the cash we paid a total of Sh116,870,” said Ann, almost breaking down.
According to an email seen by The Standard addressed to a local booking agent, Prudential Travels the airline laid blame on the agent.
“For all medical reasons travel you ought not to issue tickets before medical clearance with a fit to fly remark,” read the email in part from the airline.
It added: “Kindly note your ticket was within 24 hours we cannot cancel, only airport taxes can be reversed and credit note issued under the same passenger names. No cash fund is given on Air Arabia. You may cancel the inbound flight.”
After this mail, Ann said she was forced to go back to the same agent to try a secure another flight, which she said, she was instructed to add Sh50,000 more. She only had Sh25,000 and so reached an agreement that she will pay the rest once she is back from India.
This is when the agent booked another flight with a different airline that was scheduled to depart on Sunday 2:15pm via Abu Dhabi before connecting to Delhi.
This time round, the agent had all the papers right including a medical certificate signed by Dr Diane Mclvor of Etihad.
On the flight ticket too it was indicated that she was a medical case described as ‘wheelchair all the way seat-confirmed.’
But as soon as the plane was already boarded, Ann and her ailing sister, whose right leg is being held together with screws due to massive loss of bones, were instructed to leave the flight.
An exchange ensued between the airline officials and the family who wanted answers on why they could not be allowed to travel.
“We called Medilink, which is the global agent on medical issues for all airlines based in Singapore and they said she was not fit to travel,” said the airline official in charge, who also claimed that Wangari was screaming in pain when she was being assisted to board.
“But she is sick. What did they expect her to do?” posed Ann.
Ann claimed that she was assured her sister will get a seat with enough legroom since her leg cannot bend.
Another official of the airline explained that such cases of patients being denied chance to travel are rampant since the booking agents do not take full consideration of the patients’ status before in order to find them favourable seats or alternative means of flying-which in Wangari’s case, should have been a stretcher.
Jericho Mutuku, from Prudential Travels told The Standard that all the paper work was followed in booking the flight.
"I even have emails that authorised the bookings," he said.
He said only available options for the stranded patient is to fly with another airline possibly Emirates or Kenya Airways which has direct six hour flights to India.
“But KQ only gets to Mumbai yet they are heading to Delhi,” he said. Ann said she avoided KQ during the booking as charges then were USD1,750 per person compared to Etihad USD630.
The family however has already exhausted almost all the cash they had having spent Sh141,870 including a portion of what they are to use as accommodation.
An authorisation letter from National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) signed by Dr Samson Kuhora indicated that Wangari has been diagnosed with severe osteomyelitis (infection of the bone) and large bone loss of the distal left femur following a fracture and has been referred for insertion of mega prosthesis at BLK Hospital, New Delhi.
“NHIF has reviewed this case and is undertaking to pay up to Sh500,000 which is equivalent of USD 4,921 for the procedure including investigations related to the primary reason for travel," read the letter.
Wangari was involved in an accident in November 2017 which led to her being hospitalised for a whole year in Mombasa and Nairobi.