6 July 2016
By Taliesin Cormach - QL SA
Dubai based international Airline carrier, Emirates Airline, blame South Africa's travel regulations for ill treating a gay couple on a flight from Dubai to Durban.
According to Pink News British couple Lee Charlton, his partner Jason, and his son Kieran, said they were left “humiliated” by Emirates staff after being asked if they were brothers.
They were traveling from Dubai to Durban in South Africa's Kwazulu Natal province, and said a female staff member at the Dubai check in counter gave Charlton “quizzical looks”, when she asked if either Jason or Kieran were his brother.
But that's not where the humiliation ended. The family reportedly then were shut in a back room in the airport for two hours out of their three-hour gap to catch their connecting flight.
They were given no explanation for being shut in the back room, and then were told their documents wouldn’t allow them to enter South Africa.
According to British newspaper, The Independent, Emirates attributed the delays to an error in the family’s paperwork, saying they had been asked to sit in an "Emirates office" while they resolved the situation.
Mr Charlton told The Independent:
“This was absolutely about our sexuality, there is no doubt about that. I was shocked, it was a horrible and stressful situation and I felt humiliated.”
Meanwhile Mr Charlton posted on Facebook that he has received a one-line reply to his lengthy complaint letter which reads:
“Hi Lee, we’re sorry to hear you feel this way. We’ll highlight your feedback to our Airport Service team for an internal review. Thanks.”
Mr Charlton says the Emirates staff member said: “It’s South Africa, not us”, when he asked why they were being held in the room.
“The most annoying thing about this is that I have to travel to South Africa a lot for work meetings – and I am forced to fly with Emirates.
“The whole thing has really left a sour taste in my mouth and I’d think twice about visiting Dubai again in the future.”
In a statement, an Emirates spokesperson said:
“At Emirates we do our best to provide our passengers with the very best customer service and travel advice and we’re sorry to hear about Mr Charlton’s complaint.
“Since 1 June 2015, according to South African regulations, anyone traveling to the country with a minor under 18 needs to prove parenthood or guardianship – while adults traveling alone with their children need to show that they have the consent of their non-traveling partner.
“Like all airlines, we must comply with the laws of every country in which we operate and this is a shared responsibility with passengers, who are required to hold valid travel documents for all countries on their itinerary.
“We note that the Charlton family continued on Emirates flight EK 775 to Durban, as booked. We regret any inconvenience caused, however, compliance with international laws concerning child protection will not be compromised.”
It MUST also be said however that homosexuality is illegal in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and punishments can range from fines to life imprisonment to the death penalty.
This was also the first time recorded that an Airline used South Africa's travel regulations to discriminate against an LGBT family.