A British gay couple and their young son have said they were ‘humiliated’ and ’embarrassed’ by Emirates after they said they were asked by airline staff if they were brothers and shut in secluded room for two hours.
Lee Charlton, his husband Jason and their son Keiran had flown from Manchester to Dubai in the plans to travel from there to Durban, South Africa.
Writing on Facebook, Charlton said Emirates check-in staff laughed at him and his partner when they confirmed they were a couple.
‘We handed all our documents to the lady behind the desk who gave us a quizzical look as we are gay parents. She asked me if Kieran was my brother to which I replied no my son. She then looked at Jason my partner and asked the same question with a look of surprise on her face She then said she could not issue our tickets and shouted her manager over,’ he wrote.
‘He looked at the documents and then at us and said we may not be allowed to travel we asked when and he said its South Africa not us. He asked us to wait in a room and did not give us any indication to what the problem was. After an hour I went to find the gentleman but could not find him.
‘After two hours I went to the desk to ask what was going on and the lady said that we had to get clearance for us to travel to South Africa. I asked why and said I had already checked all this out prior to my departure. I was getting stressed as our connecting flight was now boarding.
‘I asked if it was because we are gay and I was laughed at. I have never felt so embarrassed.’
Finally, the family were allowed to board their flight to Durban. Charlton said he didn’t want to kick up too much of a fuss because they had 30 minutes to make their flight.
‘I have not felt so embarrassed like this because of my sexuality since I was younger,’ he said.
Homosexuality is illegal in Dubai and is punishable up to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
An Emirates spokesperson said in a statement: ‘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.’