Being the parent of a child with disabilities is not easy, as so many parents can attest to. It can be even more difficult when you're trying to do things that many other families take for granted, and you're met with resistance or worse. Take traveling, for instance. Traveling with children is never easy, but imagine trying to log a 14-hours flight with a teenager who has autism, epilepsy, and severe learning disabilities. You really have to rely on the kindness and support of others (which we should all be able to rely on anyway!). But when journalist Isabelle Kumar was traveling with her family, including son Eli, she says she was instead subjected to inhumane discrimination by Emirates Airlines. Her story is incredibly infuriating, and the response from the airline only makes it worse.
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
Isabelle says she and her family were flying to France after spending some time with family in New Zealand. They're no strangers to international flights; in fact, Eli had flown on multiple flights with Emirates before without incident. Eli has autism, epilepsy, and other learning difficulties. As a precaution, when they fly, Isabelle and her husband always bring along a doctor's certificate clearing him to fly, as well as all the medications he may need to manage his epilepsy.
The family had already spent over 14 hours on a flight from New Zealand before their stopover in the United Arab Emirates. When they were preparing to continue their journey, they asked the flight crew if Eli could have a seat next to an empty seat, in case he had a seizure mid-flight. Apparently, that was a major problem for the crew. The family had been very open about Eli's medical conditions leading up to the flight, but once they asked for a seat next to an empty seat, they demanded to see a medical certificate. The family produced their certificate, but then the airline claimed that Eli had to be seen by their own medical crew off the plane.
The family got off the plane after the crew made threats that they would call the police, and Eli was cleared (unsurprisingly!) to continue with the flight. However, the family was not allowed back on the plane. They waited in the airport for EIGHT HOURS without being offered any food or water before Emirates finally arranged for a hotel room for them. To add insult to injury, the family had to pay almost 700 euro for bus tickets so they could reach their connecting flight.
Emirates eventually placed the family on a different flight, and reimbursed them for the bus tickets. The airline issued an apology for the distress they caused Isabelle and her family, but for Isabelle, it was too little, too late. She says she will definitely reconsider ever flying with Emirates again, but she refuses to let this terrible incident keep her family from traveling.