Woman Kicked Off Flight for Saying the Word “Contagious”

I’m paranoid about getting sick. With as much travel as I do there’s no good time for it. So I absolutely hate when I’m stuck next to a passenger that’s coughing or sniffling or I encounter a lounge staff member with the flu handling food.

I want people to change their flights when they are sick. I want people who are sick not to come to work and make colleagues and customers sick (and employer policies need to encourage this). So I’m sympathetic to airlines refusing to transport people who are sick — they don’t want to have to divert midflight, of course. But they can also make mistakes about who to kick off especially when they’re delegating the decision to flight attendants operating on incomplete information.

There’s even a certain sympathy to an airline kicking off passengers who smell.

But how to make this decision? Air Canada made a doozy of a choice announcing to the whole plane that a woman with a rash was contagious — when she wasn’t.

A woman developed a rash during her travels, sought medical attention, and received medication. She was told she had shingles and was not contagious. But Air Canada disgreed on Sunday.

On Sunday evening, an Air Canada flight between Halifax and Toronto was delayed from 6:25 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday, which the airline says was because “a passenger was believed to have a transmissible skin disease.”

Copyright: ronniechua / 123RF Stock Photo

The woman asked a flight attendant if it was possible to change to a window seat, which seemed more private, because she was self conscious about the rash — though she said she was not contagious. But she said the word contagious.

‘You are contagious. You said you are contagious, so I cannot leave you in the plane. Just follow me.

A few moments later the flight attendant “came back dressed in a mask and gloves, and asked Lehman to bring her belongings and follow her off the plane.”

The airline made announcements “about a passenger with a contagious disease,” and they disinfected the area where the passenger had been. Everyone was deplaned, and the aircraft was taken out of service. A different plane was used.

Meanwhile the woman was sent to the hospital where she was given the all clear to fly. The airline put her on a flight the next day, gave her a hotel room, and food vouchers.

Air Canada naturally says this was all done “out of an abundance of caution.”

(HT: Jennifer Billock)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Here I thought you were a thought leader in aviation – what kind of story is this

    You dont have all the facts

    There are other people onboard that aircraft

    Do you think that she would the first person to travel without disclosing she was contagious

    What brilliant commentary would you spew is she was contatgious and allowed to fly — I assume you would jump to the airlines defence of how great a decision it was to risk the health of every passenger on board because a passenger said they were not Contagious

    Wow – shame on you for this pathetic article

  2. Mask and gloves?? Early in the season I know, but this FA is probably the winner of the Freddies Drama Queen Flight Attendant 2019.

  3. Air Canada naturally says this was all done “out of an abundance of stupidity.”

    there. i fixed it for you.

  4. This is what happens when there is a combination of 1 FAs being a law unto themselves and 2 stupid. IE, quite common.
    It reminds me a little of the time when Qantas FAs took industrial action, refusing to distribute hot/cold towels to passengers, fearful of contracting AIDS.

  5. As someone who caught chicken pox earlier this year traveling and had to cancel a dream vacation I cannot force myself to feel bad for the passenger removed from this plane.

  6. In actuality, Air Canada might have done the public a service.
    To the best of my knowledge, Erupting shingles (Herpes Zoster) is the same as Chicken Pox and can be a very bad thing for an expectant Mom to be or a newborn child to catch. This does not last forever, in some cases discomfort remains after the rash is gone and is no longer contagious. Had a susceptible person sat in that seat the results could be life altering.

  7. This reminds me of my JetBlue experience. We boarded and immediately started giving my young son candy including peanut based candy. As we were pushing back there was an announcement that this would be a peanut free flight due to an allergic passenger. I immediately made our peanuts known. There was a conference with the airlines medical “team” and they determined that the passenger would remain on board and my son would have to remove his shirt and pants and be wiped down with alcohol wipes. There was not even the slightest apology towards us, it was do as we say or deplane.
    At the arrival airport I asked the cabin attendant to keep the allergic party from passing us or have them taken out the rear door (customary at that station) but the allergic passenger had no real concerns and, in my opinion, no real allergy.

  8. Air Canada has done it properly and thinking of possible eventualities from that situation..right decision to deplane that woman..people should be warned to take their health condition seriously for their own sake and others as well! Peouple should not be so stupid and careless about such situations and should face the full consequence of shame, costs etc., if found guilty of negligence or deliberately putting yourself and especially other peoe in danger or harm!

  9. Why do people still open their mouths when they enter an airport? I use travel to rest my voice. I don’t say a single word for hours unless I am asked somthing that I cannot answer by moving my head or fingers. Seriously, traveling by air has become such a pain that I avoid any social contact with anyone. Get in and out without being noticed. That is how I play.

  10. I’m not sure where this “medical information” came from, but shingles are dormant chicken pox that reerrupts later in life. Lesions are contagious until fully crusted over. Until the lesions it is recommended to cover lesions to prevent transmission. So in fact this pt was contagious unless the lesions were fully crusted.

  11. I agree with Santastico. If you don’t give them rope, they can’t hang you with it. While we choose to travel we are all under arrest, so say as little as possible and preferably nothing. We made it this way through disruptive immigration policies. To make travel safe and fair, we must oppress everyone equally and by equally I mean everyone except those from a protected group.

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