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British woman recounts her WestJet Canadian Christmas nightmare

Last Updated Jan 10, 2019 at 4:35 pm MST

The tail of a WestJet plane is seen dwarfing the Calgary skyline before the airline's annual meeting in Calgary on May 3, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Karen Ambler says they had just taken off from Calgary when an intoxicated passenger attacked her

Ambler says she has been offered a $250 credit which doesn't comfort her much

The self-described seasoned traveller says she may never fly WestJet again and this is about customer service

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – A British woman says she is still trying to forget her Canadian Christmas nightmare after she was attacked aboard a WestJet flight.

Karen Ambler had been in Canada visiting her cousin and had a seat booked aboard WestJet flight WS1 bound for Gatwick on January 4, 2019.

It was an emotional day for Ambler who was also dealing with the anniversary of her father’s death.

The flight had just taken off, and they were still ascending with the seatbelt sign on, when an intoxicated man had gotten up to use the washroom.

Ambler says the crew had told him to sit, but he refused. She said something to him, and he lost his cool.

He immediately became belligerent and started to yell and swear at the woman, who had paid extra to sit near the front of the plane.

She was quickly ushered to the back of the plane by flight attendants for her safety.

“To be ushered to the back of the plane and I was in tears as well, so everyone was looking at me, it was just really traumatizing,” said Ambler. “It felt like we had been in the air for hours but obviously I was in shock but I recently was sent WestJet’s response, the online interview response, and I just found out that we had been flying around in the air for sometime to dump fuel.”

The flight was turned back to YYC Calgary International Airport and met by police on the tarmac.

A man was taken into custody, the plane was then inspected, the airline got a new crew, and the flight was able to resume.

WestJet anticipates they were maybe delayed anywhere from five to five and a half hours before they were able to carry on to London.

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Ambler believes the airline should have tabbed the intoxicated passenger as he got onboard the flight.

“He was so angry,” said Ambler. “It was more scary than anything, traumatizing and it’s kind of shocked me as to how much it’s affected me.”

The self-described seasoned traveller says she wears her heart on her sleeve and being interviewed as they disembarked was also embarrassing.

She booked herself in a private lounge while they waited for the jet to resume its trip, away from prying eyes.

Ambler says this is not about money and she’s not looking to have cash deposited into her bank account.

“If they said next time you want to fly out, because of it … it’s about the principle of customer service, being safe and again the stewardesses, there was a lady called Katherine when I got to the back of the plane, she was lovely, and I feel for them as well, but before he even gets to that front door, there are so many people beforehand,” she said.

“I just … sorry… I just feel really sad about the situation,” she said crying. “I’m just tired, I haven’t been sleeping very well, and it hasn’t been a great start to the year.”

The British woman saved up for a year for the trip. Her fare had cost her more than $2,700 for the round-trip flight.

She’s expecting a grandchild at the end of the month and adds if she returns to Canada, without any kind of proper response, it won’t be on WestJet.

WATCH:¬†WestJet flight going from Calgary to London turns around because of “unruly” passenger

WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart says compensation wouldn’t be something typically they’d consider in a situation like this one.

“We consider this an uncontrollable incident, similar to what weather would be considered, so we wouldn’t normally compensate guests in this instance. At the time that this was occurring obviously our top priority was to get the aircraft on the ground safely and ensure that everybody was in a more comfortable position so we turned the aircraft as fast as we could in order to get them on their way but in terms of compensation this wouldn’t be something that we compensate for,” said Stewart.

Stewart couldn’t speak specifically to Ambler’s case and her feelings of being attacked. She says that is usually between the airline and the guest.

She says whether they seek compensation from the man at the centre of the disturbance has yet to be determined.

“It is pricey for us to have to divert like this or turn back so there are ways we can seek compensation, I can’t say one way or another whether we will in this instance, but in cases where we do want to if the person is convicted in court of the charges then we can seek compensation at that time,” she said.

As to why did the airline not catch the intoxicated person boarding the plane, Stewart couldn’t speak to the exact situation.

“When guests are boarding the aircraft, they do have interaction with WestJet CSAs and GSAs, I would say sometimes it’s not obvious if somebody is intoxicated. I think we’ve maybe all been in situations where we’ve noticed later on after interactions that somebody is intoxicated but when you’re going through to get your ID checked it’s a very quick interaction. We do keep an eye out to ensure our guests are fit to fly, but I would say overall sometimes it’s not always obvious,” she said.

WestJet says it does fly between 70,000 – 80,000 people a day and they are considering this to be an isolated incident.

The man who was allegedly at the centre of the ordeal, 44-year-old David Stephen Young of England, has been charged with assaulting a peace officer and causing a disturbance.

He’ll be in a Calgary courtroom next on Monday.