Disabled teenager kicked off Emirates flight after visiting family in New Zealand

The family spent seven hours at the airport after being kicked off the plane, despite having a medical certificate for Eli.
The family spent seven hours at the airport after being kicked off the plane, despite having a medical certificate for Eli. Photo credit: Twitter/ Isabelle Kumar

A disabled teenager and his family were kicked off an Emirates flight after visiting family in New Zealand, despite having doctor's permission to fly.

Eli, whose father Adam Brown is from New Zealand, was boarding a flight from Dubai to France with his parents and two siblings - the final leg of their journey home.

When the family asked flight crew if they could have an empty seat beside Eli in case he had a seizure, they 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," his mother Isabelle Kumar said.

She showed the medical certificate and called the family's doctor to confirm he had permission to fly, but staff refused to speak to the doctor and told the family they had to speak to ground staff.

The family were then told to leave the plane, despite having already taken two Emirates flights on their journey home.

"The staff were faced with a kid with severe disabilities but they threatened to call the police if we didn't get off," Ms Kumar told Euronews.

When they got off the plane ground staff agreed that Eli was able to fly, but they weren't allowed to get back on the plane.

"Eli is very distressed, he can't understand what is happening... My twins were in tears, they felt humiliated," she told Euronews after the incident.

The family had been living in New Zealand for a year to reconnect with their Kiwi roots.

After hours of confusion at the airport they were able to board another 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. I will think twice before travelling with Emirates though," Ms 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."

Mr Brown's brother Miles told NZME the family had "no issues" with their Air New Zealand flights to New Zealand and had "a lovely time" during their stay here.