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Boy With Epilepsy And Family Kicked Off Emirates Flight

July 27, 2018

Emirates staff have forced a disabled teenager and his family to disembark from a plane because he has epilepsy, despite the fact he held a medical certificate and clearance to fly.

Eli, the 17-year-old son of the Euronews journalist Isabelle Kumar, had boarded a flight on Wednesday from Dubai to France, the final leg of a long-haul journey from New Zealand via Australia.

But when Kumar – who had phoned the airline in advance to ensure they were aware of her son’s needs – asked for a seat with a vacant seat next to it in case he had a seizure, they wanted to see the medical certificate.

“I couldn’t initially find the certificate, But I called the doctor, got them to email the certificate which she did immediately,” she said. “Eli’s doctor wanted to speak to the attendants but they refused to speak to her, refused to look at the certificate, and refused to listen to us about Eli’s needs.”

Attendants said the certificate had to be shown to ground staff, despite the fact that the family had spoken to staff at check in and at the departure gate about their son’s disability.

Attendants then told the family – Kumar and her husband also have 10-year-old twins – they had to disembark and threatened to call the police if the family did not leave the plane, Kumar said.

“The children were crying, Eli was really distressed, he was biting his arm which is how he copes with stress, holding his head in his hands,” she said.

“We managed to get him off OK, and there was an emergency medical team waiting. They thought he’d had a medical emergency, but we said he was fine. They couldn’t understand why we had been kicked off. They immediately agreed he was fine to fly, but we were not allowed to re-board. The lack of humanity was really shocking.”

Kumar said the incident had left her children distraught.

“Travelling with a kid with disabilities is really challenging, we really have to plan it carefully in a lot of ways – so something like this is really disruptive, particularly for Eli. He is totally exhausted, he was very upset when we got taken out, he didn’t understand what was going on.”

Kumar said the family continued to be treated badly once in the airport and that there was “no contrition” by the airline. One customer services manager suggested they fly to Vienna, despite the fact that they live in Lyon. Finally a different Emirates employee suggested that the family fly to Geneva the next day.

“We were just dumped in an airport, we had to battle to get a hotel and it was only after there was a Twitter storm that they suddenly started treating us correctly,” said Kumar.

When the family arrived in Geneva Eli had a seizure, which Kumar puts down to exhaustion and lack of sleep. “Eli is now 17, we know what it takes – we’ve been everywhere and we’ve managed it, but it takes very careful planning which is why this was so disruptive.”

From there they took a £572 Emirates transfer car to Lyon, which they had to put on a credit card. The company said the cost would be refunded, but refused to state it in writing, Kumar said. When they arrived in Geneva, two of their bags were also missing.

The incident left them demoralised and exhausted, she said. Although the family had travelled several times with Emirates, they would think twice before doing so again, she said. “It has been very long and very trying, the whole thing has just been so difficult.”

Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals between 1992 and 2004, said she was extremely disappointed by the way Emirates had appeared to handle the situation.

Although medical certificates were necessary in “very limited circumstances, it made no sense to ignore one once produced”, she said. “This incident raises more questions. Under what assessment process did the member of staff make this decision? What reassurance do passengers have that if they book with any airline they will be able to fly? Instead of encouraging openness, it may encourage people to be less open.”

She also said that travel was becoming harder for disabled people in many circumstances. “I’m really concerned that issues like this could encourage airlines to demand increased medical certification, or that airlines may not let disabled people fly on their own.”

Simon Wigglesworth, the deputy chief executive at Epilepsy Action, said the story was very concerning. “Epilepsy can be a very distressing condition in itself and this experience will only have added to that for all concerned,” he said. “[It] is a varied condition which affects everyone in very different ways. We urge travel companies to ensure that their staff are trained in epilepsy first aid so they know what to do if someone has a seizure and how to make them safe.”

An Emirates spokesperson said 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,” they said.

“Our customer service team has been in touch with the family, and we have offered them a complimentary hotel stay while in transit and rebooked them on another flight departing on 26 July.”

3 Comments leave one →
  1. mark taha permalink
    July 27, 2018 2:21 pm

    Rather glad he’s a journalist’s son-she can get them exposed!


  2. July 27, 2018 3:08 pm

    er… Emirates

    Emirates (airline) – “The airline is a subsidiary of The Emirates Group, which is wholly owned by the government of Dubai’s Investment Corporation of Dubai” (United Arab Emirates)

    Human Rights Watch – United Arab Emirates

    Amnesty International – United Arab Emirates

    So WTF does Euronews journalist Isabelle Kumar expect??

    If she herself had a disability she wouldn’t fly Air Fester-McVile. (Without expecting to get Defrauded or Murdered).

    If she herself was Jewish she wouldn’t fly Corbyn Air. (Without expecting to get Abused or Beaten Up).

    “Euronews journalist”

    I searched Euro… ahem..”news” for – ‘human rights United Arab Emirates’
    0 results for ‘human rights United Arab Emirates’


    I searched Euro… ahem..”news” for DWP –
    Only ONE result.. from 2014

    I searched Euro… ahem..”news” for ‘uk human rights’ –
    0 results for ‘uk human rights’

    I searched Euro… ahem..”news” for ‘Department of work and pensions’
    5 whole results ever for ‘Department of work and pensions’
    ONE in the last year –

    That’s a “journalist”… yeah

    Hoist by it’s own blind eye turning petard…. (are they going to chop it’s hands off?)


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