Family left behind on holiday as autistic son was deemed 'unfit to fly' without medical certificate

Officials did not even ask to see the certificate after it was obtained, the family claims

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The Independent Online

A family was left abroad for two days after a travel firm told them the son who has severe autism was “unfit to fly”.

Arshad Sherbaz and Selina Begum – parents of 11-year-old Mustafah – were told by Thomas Cook that they could not board the return flight home from Turkey in July, the Birmingham Mail reports.

The family, including daughter Meelam, 19, say they were told at Dalaman Airport after they had already checked in that they needed a “fit to fly” certificate from a doctor to allow Mustafah to return home to Birmingham.

 

They stayed in Turkey for two more days to receive a medical certificate and anti-anxiety medication after spending £2,300 for the holiday. Thomas Cook have since apologised for any confusion and offered £750 in compensation vouchers.

After being billed for accommodation, taxis and ambulance transport to the hospital, the airport did not even ask to see the certificate, the family said.

Mr Sherbaz told the Birmingham Mail: “Someone from Thomas Cook told us that they had spoken to the pilot who had refused to let my son on the plane to fly home. They said Arshad was a safety risk and was not fit to fly.

“We couldn’t understand. I had notified Thomas Cook before the holiday about my son’s disability.

“The only thing I could think of was that he had a small tantrum on the flight on the way out.”

Mustafah – who communicates in sign language – had become stressed after a long day of travelling during the outbound journey as they had missed the previous flight from Gatwick.

He banged on the door of the plane toilet before being comforted by his father after boarding another flight from Birmingham.

Dalaman_Airport_Terminal.JPG
Dalaman Airport in Turkey, where the family were told they could not fly

His parents claim that they had never been treated in this way before during trips to Morocco, Spain, Italy and the US with Mustafah.

A spokesman for Thomas Cook had said: “We take the welfare and safety of all of our customers very seriously and we can confirm we are in contact with the Sherbaz family regarding their journey home from Turkey in June 2014.

“Prior to their return flight, the company we use for medical assistance advised that Mr & Mrs Sherbaz’s son would need to be seen by a doctor before flying home to ensure he was well enough for the flight.

“Our crew explained this to the family and we ensured they were able to travel to the hospital. They returned to the UK on our flight the next day at no cost and we also ensured they had support and welfare at the airport.

“Our customer services team are now liaising directly with the family to ensure they are compensated for the additional expenses they incurred and we’d like to apologise for any confusion caused during their holiday. At all times, our concern was for the health of Master Sherbaz.”

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