Have you had negative experiences while flying / traveling because you are LGBT? A British couple just had one such occurrence. In an article in PinkNews.co.uk entitled No Action Taken By Airline As Gay Couple ‘Laughed At’, Asked If They Were Brothers, but it turned out to be more than just a laughing matter.
A gay couple who said they were laughed at and asked if they were brothers by staff at a check in desk, have said they received a one-line response. The British couple Lee Charlton, 42, 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, 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.
He says the family were then 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, then were told their documents wouldn’t allow them to enter South Africa.
The Independent reported that 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 says he and his family nearly missed their connecting flight because of the delay. He 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.”
Now Mr Charlton posts that he has received a one-line reply to his lengthy complaint letter. It 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.”
“We were very excited to travel long distance for the first time with our son Kieran and it was effectively spoilt by the staff from Emirates. “I came out as gay aged 16 and I have never encountered this kind of behaviour… in the 26 years since.”
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. “Without a doubt we were treated in an aggressive and demeaning way, and I just don’t understand why Emirates, a huge international corporation, doesn’t give cultural training to its staff overcome these kinds of prejudices.
“I am really not one of these people to jump on a political correctness bandwagon, but I felt I had to say something.” He writes: “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.”
Homosexuality is illegal in the UAE and carries anything from fines to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Was this an instance of mistreatment based on sexuality?
I've read the information PinkNews.co.uk has shared with us more than once. Would a straight couple have been treated the same? Possibly. More information as to what documentation was presented by travelers and accepted by Emirates staff is needed before this can be listed as improper treatment based on sexuality. Were all documents in order? Two male adults traveling internationally with a minor would no doubt be treated differently than a heterosexual couple with a minor. I think that is a given, may they be gay or not.
Has this type of interrogation happened to other couples (gay or straight) with minors since June 2015? Here is a link to the British Airways documentation on the South African Policy where they mention the necessity of having a UBC (Unabridged Birth Certificate) when traveling with a minor. Also mentioned are other types od documentation accepted.
What are your thoughts? Is more info needed in this case? Or is this truly an example of discrimination?