Emirates slammed for kicking family off flight because of special needs son
Isabelle Kumar, a Euronews presenter, tweeted about the incident. Her family had boarded a flight from Dubai to France and asked whether her son, Eli, could sit next to an empty seat in case he had an epileptic seizure. The cabin crew then asked to see a medical certificate.
The family were on their way back to France from New Zealand and the flight was the final leg of their journey.
“We told Emirates every step of the way that Eli had epilepsy (and autism) but when we asked for a seat with a vacant seat next to it in case he had a seizure, they suddenly wanted to see the medical certificate,” Kumar said.
Thanks @emirates for removing our family from your flight. Our son has epilepsy: we had told you, just come 14 hr from Melbourne, got his doctor on the phone & medical clearance while still on board. He has #autism & severe learning difficulties - v traumatic. pic.twitter.com/1JXw9A4EYM— Isabelle Kumar (@Isabelle_kumar) July 25, 2018
Kumar presented the certificate but was told it had to be given to ground crew. She also called the family doctor to confirm he was able to fly, but the staff would not speak to the doctor and ordered the family off the plane. Staff threatened to call the police if they did not leave.
Once kicked off - your staff immediately agreed that he is fine to fly - as he has been with every flight with you @emirates. Now there is no flight home. Kids totally distraught and humiliated. Where is your humanity?— Isabelle Kumar (@Isabelle_kumar) July 25, 2018
Hi Isabelle, we’re sorry to hear this. Please DM us your booking reference and email address. We’ll look into this.— Emirates Support (@EmiratesSupport) July 25, 2018
Once the family were off the plane, the ground staff agreed her son was fine to fly, “as he has been with every flight with you, Emirates,” Kumar tweeted. Eli was distressed and “beside himself,” Kumar told Stuff.co.nz, while her two other children were “in tears” and felt humiliated. The family were unable to get back on the plane.
“You face endless challenges having a kid with disabilities and being treated with respect would help, but we never give up and this won’t stop us travelling as a family,” Kumar said.
Emirates said it was sorry for any stress or inconvenience caused, and said “such situations are usually difficult for operational staff to assess, and they opted to act in the best interest of our passengers' safety as well as on advice from our medical team.”
Kumar said the family spent about eight hours in the airport and had nothing to eat until they got to their “disgusting” hotel, for which Emirates said it paid. They were booked on a flight to Geneva, Switzerland the following day and had to get a bus to Lyon, a journey for which the airline said it would pay.
If this hadn't happened to the child of a well-connected journalist we might not be hearing about it. But I'm very glad that @Isabelle_kumar is using her platform to highlight this, hopefully saving other families future distress.— Head Full Of Kittens #PCPEU (@notwaving) July 26, 2018
Appalling that an airline would do this in 2018! I hope they’ve organised for you to get where you need to ASAP & with the due apologies! @emirates since when did you become an American airline?— Maithreyi (@maithreyi_s) July 26, 2018
Appalling appalling behaviour @emirates— Tanya Robinson (@Tarnyaa) July 26, 2018
Example of unacceptable discrimination faced by #autistic people and their families. We call on @emirates to ensure the respect of all passengers’ right to travel and take adequate measures (ie: staff training, etc) to be more #autism friendly. @Isabelle_kumar@EDFaccesshttps://t.co/UM0iV7jhci— Autism-Europe (@AutismEurope) July 26, 2018
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