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Emirates evicts disabled teen and family from flight

July 30, 2018 Headline News 1 Comment Email Email

Emirates stands accused of evicting a disabled teenager and his family from a flight from Melbourne to France because of the boy’s epilepsy and autism.

A report in the New Zealand Herald described how an expatriate Kiwi, Adam Brown, brought his wife and three boys from their home in Lyon, France, to live in Auckland for the past year and catch up with relatives.

Just before the final leg of the family’s flight home to France (the Dubai to Lyon sector) the family was ordered off the flight.

The NZ Herald quoted Brown’s brother in New Zealand saying the disabled teenager, Eli Brown, 17, wasn’t allowed back on the plane, despite already having taking two Emirates flights without a problem and “despite his doctor on the phone saying he was fine, and an email and medical certificate saying the same”.

Whatever the circumstances, the airline may have underestimated Eli’s mother Isabelle Kumar, a media-savvy journalist who took to Twitter immediately and is not taking the matter lying down.

Isabelle Kumar is a presenter for Euronews and president of France-based autism charity Autisme Ambition Avenir.  Euronews, a channel owned by Media Globe Networks (60%), Universal Studios Limited (NBC News) and a host of other shareholders, pumps out 12 constantly updated editions covering world news in English, French, German, Arabic, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.

Kumar’s son Eli has epilepsy, autism and severe learning difficulties but has apparently flown extensively with his family, never before with any trouble.

Kumar tweeted that it took Emirates nine hours to finally put up the family in a “grotty hotel”.

The story has been carried around the world – including, unsurprisingly, on Euronews.

France’s Secretary of State in charge of People with Disabilities condemned the airline’s behaviour.

Sophie Cluzel told Euronews: “These are serious dysfunctions, they are attacks, it is discriminatory for people with disabilities to not be able to access these flights while the family had taken all precautions.”

The story has gathered a mixed response, with Twitter comments overwhelmingly sympathetic to the family – but a few dissenters pointing out that other passengers also have rights.

One person responded on Twitter: “Was he removed because of his behaviour or because of his seizure disorder? Frankly, if I paid good money to fly from Dubai to France and I had to listen to that yelling the entire flight, I’d be a wreck. So sorry this happened to you but it’s not fair for others either.”

Another writer drew attention to the long-suffering expression on the face of the passenger seated behind Eli in the clip above.

Kumar said: “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.”

One writer wondered how Emirates will cope if it needs to take disabled people or athletes to the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, scheduled to be held in Abu Dhabi next March.

An Emirates spokesperson told the Guardian 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…”

The family had been rebooked on another flight which departed on 26 July, the airline added.

Written by Peter Needham

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. AgentGerko says:

    Having looked at the film clip I see no reason why other passengers nearby should have to put up with that commotion for hours and hours. Sorry but as a person with disabilities, I believe that the rights of the dozens of other passengers around outweigh that one passengers rights. Unfair? Life is sometimes. And the family certainly has no right to believe they should get spare seats given to them for free, just to ease the situation. But of course Mum is a journo and she’ll milk every second that she can out of this.

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