Why airlines can stop you flying even if you’re cleared by doctors

Money

A super-fit grandfather was forced to pay more than £350 to rescue his holiday after being ordered off a plane due to a minor stomach upset he suffered hours earlier.  

Ron Linton is a trampolining coach who still does somersaults aged 73. 

But he was removed from the Thomas Cook aircraft — without being told why  — even though he felt well again and airport paramedics had given him the all-clear to fly.

Having paid £426 for a round-trip to Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete, Ron then had to fork out for a new plane ticket and taxis to and from Manchester Airport.

Flight fright: Ron Linton, a trampolining coach who still does somersaults aged 73, was removed from a Thomas Cook aircraft — without being told why

Flight fright: Ron Linton, a trampolining coach who still does somersaults aged 73, was removed from a Thomas Cook aircraft — without being told why

Flight fright: Ron Linton, a trampolining coach who still does somersaults aged 73, was removed from a Thomas Cook aircraft — without being told why

As there were no flights available until 48 hours later, he also lost two days of his holiday, on which he had planned to hike in the mountains and enjoy an Easter carnival with friends.

Ron’s experience exposes the huge power put in the hands of airline pilots and crew, who can cancel your holiday for medical reasons even though they are not qualified as doctors or nurses.

In Ron’s case, he admits to feeling unwell on waking at 5.30am for the flight and was sick shortly after. When he got to Manchester Airport, he was still feeling ‘under the weather’ and took his time walking across the concourse. 

He was approached by a police officer, who asked if he was all right and accompanied him to the lounge. En route, Ron says he began coughing, but was not sick. The police officer suggested that he be given ‘the once-over’ by passing paramedics before boarding. 

By then, Ron felt reasonably well and declined. But paramedics arrived anyway and he thought it rude to refuse. Ron, of Cheshire, who used to work in IT at Manchester Metropolitan University, reassured them he was fit. He says: ‘I coach competitive trampolining gymnastics and am still capable of somersaults.

‘On my 70th birthday, I celebrated by doing 70 somersaults in 70 minutes to raise money for the Christie Hospital in Manchester. I’m also a regular hill walker and qualified scuba diver.’

The paramedics had no concerns and stated in their report that he was fine to travel on the 10.30am flight — five hours after he had felt unwell.

Ron had paid £426 for a round-trip to Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete. He then had to fork out for a new plane ticket and taxis to and from Manchester Airport

Ron had paid £426 for a round-trip to Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete. He then had to fork out for a new plane ticket and taxis to and from Manchester Airport

Ron had paid £426 for a round-trip to Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete. He then had to fork out for a new plane ticket and taxis to and from Manchester Airport

Yet the police officer insisted he be taken in a wheelchair to the front of the check-in queue, which Ron says made him feel an ‘absolute fraud’.

Just after Ron had boarded the plane, a member of airport staff approached with a scrap of paper. She asked him to collect his hand luggage and he was taken off the flight and left sitting at the gate. Eventually, he says, he was told cabin crew had refused to allow him to fly and that ground staff had to do what Thomas Cook told them. 

He was taken to the Thomas Cook office and given a phone number to book another flight. But, when he called, he was told he’d have to pay for a flight with TUI, as none were available with Thomas Cook. 

He was offered no refund. Having no other options at such short notice, he paid £352 for the ticket. ‘I’m furious with Thomas Cook’s attitude and customer service,’ he says. ‘My friends can’t believe what happened, either.’

Airlines do have the right to stop passengers boarding if their condition could deteriorate on board or if they could infect those around them.  Other reasons for ejection include being drunk or disruptive. The decision is usually the captain’s.

American Airlines rules, for example, state that you must be ‘respectful that your odor isn’t offensive (unless it’s caused by a disability or illness)’ and you must dress ‘appropriately’. Bare feet or ‘offensive clothing’ aren’t allowed.

A spokesman says that crew are ‘empowered to make that decision which ensures the safety and comfort of our customers and team members’. It can also remove you from your seat ‘if a government official needs space’.

TUI rules state it can turn you away if your ‘attire and/or any articles you carry, or intend to carry on board the flight, are likely to be offensive to any passenger or crew’.

Ron complained to Thomas Cook but, after taking six weeks to reply, the firm refused a refund

Ron complained to Thomas Cook but, after taking six weeks to reply, the firm refused a refund

Ron complained to Thomas Cook but, after taking six weeks to reply, the firm refused a refund

Emirates says that passengers will pay expenses, including an emergency landing, ‘if you are taken ill aboard the aircraft due to a condition pre-existing the flight (whether you are aware of it or not) or due to your pregnancy’.

Where a pilot decides that a passenger is not well enough to fly, the airline can offer them a seat on the next available flight free of charge. But this will be at its discretion, says Frank Brehany, an independent travel expert.

Some airlines have a mutual agreement that if they cannot place their customer on one of their flights, they may be able to travel with another airline for free within 24 hours of the first.

Mr Brehany says the ‘trigger point’ in Ron’s case was probably when he was taken to check-in in a wheelchair. ‘The staff would have been aware of all the passengers on the flight with mobility needs and would not have been expecting him in the wheelchair.

‘If you’ve attracted attention because of health concerns during your time at the airport, this will all be documented.’ 

Mr Brehany adds that he would have expected the airline to explain why Ron was removed from the flight in writing at the time.

Ron complained to Thomas Cook but, after taking six weeks to reply, the firm refused a refund. It was only after Money Mail intervened that it agreed to pay him £500 — £352 for the TUI flight, £28 for taxi fares and the rest for goodwill.

A spokeswoman says the airline did all it could to help Ron once he recovered. She says: ‘We are very sorry we couldn’t allow Mr Linton to fly to Crete as planned.

‘Although he was cleared by paramedics, the captain decided there was too high a risk of the bug spreading to other passengers throughout the aircraft, given how clear it was that he was unwell.

‘We have offered to reimburse him for the cost of his extra flight and taxis as a gesture of goodwill, which he has accepted.’

a.murray@dailymail.co.uk

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