Woman says airline discriminated against her for ‘invisible illness’

An Ohio woman says easyJet wouldn't allow her to board with her medical device during her European trip. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

EasyJet apologized to a cystic fibrosis patient who alleged the airline believed she was lying about a medical condition to sneak an extra bag onto the plane.

Facebook user Janeil Jaggers Whitworth wrote a Monday Facebook post urging people with special needs to avoid the airline for its inconsistent medical policy.

Whitworth detailed her trip from Prague, the Czech Republic to Venice, Italy while carrying her medical equipment bag. People with cystic fibrosis develop a build-up of thick mucus that clogs the lungs, making breathing laborious and portable vests with technology can help clear their airways.

While boarding the plane with her carry-on backpack and medical bag, an employee attempted to charge the Cleveland, Ohio resident an additional fee. “The gentleman told me one would have to fit in another (which wasn’t possible), so that I only had one bag,” wrote Whitworth.

She explained that her medical bag wasn’t a “carry on,” even showing him EasyJet’s medical policy which doesn’t charge passengers a fee to transport medication. The airline states, among other rules, “You can take any medicines and medical equipment that you need to have with you” provided the bag fits in the overhead compartment.

“He dismissed me and told me I still needed to purchase another bag,” wrote Whitworth. “I asked him if he would like to open it up or see my doctors’ note and he told me he wouldn’t like to see that. And that anyone could say it was ‘medical equipment or medications.’ He believed I wasn’t being honest with him.”

Whitworth says the man offered to check her medical bag free-of-charge however, she decided to check her carry-on bag instead.

Her travel companion mentioned that her medical condition may sound far-fetched because “...I don’t look sick,” she wrote. “I look young and healthy. If I was older and looked fragile possibly he wouldn’t have given me a hard time. I have an ‘invisible illness.’ I have 56% lung function and cystic-fibrosis related diabetes. I take over 60 pills a day easily and spend 2+ hours of airway clearance a day, every single day. I spent 5 weeks on home IV antibiotics just to prepare for this trip so that I could physically handle it. I have had a lot of help while traveling with my group so that I can handle all the travel.”

She wrote, “This employee was 100% discriminating against me,” adding, “Fortunately, I am rarely ever discriminated against because I am a tiny, young white woman. I understand this particular privilege I have.”

Whitworth did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment. The airline tells Yahoo Lifestyle:

“We know how important it is for customers traveling with medical equipment to be able to keep it with them which is why we allow customers to carry medical equipment in the cabin free of charge in addition to their cabin bag allowance, when accompanied by a medical certificate,” said the EasyJet spokesperson.

“We have contacted Ms. Whitworth to apologize for her experience at Prague airport as she was incorrectly asked to check in her handbag into the hold. This is not in line with our policy and so we are investigating this with our ground handling agents. The wellbeing of our customers and crew is our highest priority.”

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