A disabled teenager and his family were removed from an Emirates flight on Wednesday because he suffers from epilepsy, despite having already obtained medical clearance to fly.
Eli, the son of Euronews journalist Isabelle Kumar, was set to travel with his family from Dubai to France in the final leg of a long-haul journey from New Zealand via Australia when staff asked to see a medical certificate.
“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 explained.
Kumar presented the medical certificate and called the family’s doctor in France to confirm that Eli was able to fly, but flight attendants refused to speak to the doctor and said the certificate needed to be presented to ground staff.
The family were then ordered to leave the plane.
“It was the lack of humanity that we found really shocking. The staff were faced with a kid with severe disabilities but they threatened to call the police if we didn’t get off, even though our bags were still on the plane,” Kumar said.
“They had every opportunity not to be so intransigent.”
After disembarking, airline staff acknowledged to the family that Eli was fit to fly but wouldn’t allow them to re-board the plane.
Kumar said the incident had upset and embarrassed her children.
“Eli is very distressed, he can’t understand what is happening… My twins were in tears, they felt humiliated,” she said after the incident.
Following hours of confusion at the airport, Kumar said a solution was reached with the airline for the family to travel on a flight to Geneva on Thursday.
But the incident left them “demoralised and exhausted”.
“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. I will think twice before travelling with Emirates though,” Kumar said.
An Emirates spokesperson told Euronews the airline was “very sorry for any distress and inconvenience caused to Ms Kumar and her family.”
“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.
“Our customer service team has been in touch with the family, and we have offered them complimentary hotel stay while in transit and rebooked them on another flight departing on 26 July.”