EasyJet throws woman off flight after epileptic seizure despite paramedics declaring her fit to fly

Helen Stephens says she was made to feel like a ‘child dismissed from class’ after being forced to disembark

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 01 September 2016 09:30
Model Helen Stephens was removed from the easyJet aircraft after suffering a seizure despite being given the all-clear from paramedics
Model Helen Stephens was removed from the easyJet aircraft after suffering a seizure despite being given the all-clear from paramedics

A woman was thrown off an easyJet flight after she had an epileptic seizure - despite paramedics saying she was fit to fly.

Helen Stephens was travelling to a friend’s wedding in Greece on a flight on Wednesday when she suffered a seizure before the plane took off from Gatwick.

The 30-year-old said though the seizure lasted “seconds”, and paramedics who attended the aircraft cleared her to fly, the airline made her leave the flight.

“It wasn’t like I’d been drunk and rowdy. I had a bit of a seizure, felt a bit silly, I just needed to sit there for a minute and go back to my seat,” Ms Stephens told the Independent.

Instead, upon being asked to leave the flight, she had to walk down the aisle to retrieve her hand luggage.

“After having a seizure and feeling a bit silly anyway, I had to walk up the aisle and pack my books back into my rucksack, and my passport and everything. I felt like a naughty schoolgirl dismissed from class. I felt like I’d made a spectacle of myself,” Ms Stephens said.

“If I had to be stretchered off the plane, and taken to hospital, I could completely understand that, but a walking talking person who can get up and pack her passport away and then get off the plane – it was really embarrassing."

EasyJet offered Ms Stephens the next flight to Greece.

“They instantly offered me the next flight, but it was 24-hours later, and they have given me a place to stay, so high-five to them for that, but actually I’d rather have been in Greece,” she said.

Helen Stephens, a model who writes about living with epilepsy, said easyJet needs to review how it treats people with the condition

An easyJet spokesman said: “EasyJet can confirm that a passenger was denied boarding flight EZY8747 from London Gatwick to Zakynthos on 31 August due to concerns over their fitness to fly.

“The health and wellbeing of passengers inflight is of paramount importance and easyJet will only allow passengers to travel if the gate staff, captain and crew are satisfied that they are fit to travel.

“EasyJet provided the passenger with overnight accommodation and has rebooked them to fly tomorrow.”

Ms Stephens said easyJet should review how it treats people with epilepsy.

“There are different severities of epilepsy. It happens in myriad ways and they should listen to health professionals and to people with epilepsy. They didn’t listen to me.

“I think easyJet need to be aware of how their staff handle disabilities, especially ones as common as epilepsy, and listen to their customers.

“I’m a customer, I said I was fine, I looked fine, the paramedics said I was fine. I’ll still make it in time for the wedding, but I was also looking forward to having a few days away and having a holiday.”

In Britain, 600,000, or one in every 103 people, has epilepsy, and 83 people are diagnosed with the condition every day, according to the charity Epilepsy Action.

There are over 40 different types of seizure which vary in severity, and a person may have more than one type.

Around five people in every 100 will have an epileptic seizure at some time in their life, according to the charity's figures. Out of these five people, around four will go on to develop epilepsy.

Epilepsy Action also tweeted to Ms Stephens that there is no evidence to suggest flying is harmful to people with epilepsy.

Update: easyJet contacted the Independent again to add the decision was taken in line with guidance that people suffering a seizure should not fly within 24-hours without medical clearance.

A spokesperson said: “The captain was concerned about a passenger following a seizure during boarding and so we transferred her onto a flight tomorrow in line with medical guidance.

“The health and wellbeing of the passenger was our primary concern. We provided her with overnight accommodation and have rebooked her to travel tomorrow.

”Our in house medical team advise that internationally agreed protocol is that it is not advisable to fly within 24 hours of a convulsion without medical clearance.”