An Edmonton woman visiting Halifax says she was removed from an Air Canada flight after the crew wrongly assumed she had a contagious disease. Jeanne Lehman developed a rash while in Halifax,… https://t.co/tJpBDz6Hqj— October Gallery (@octobergallery) April 26, 2018
A black woman from Edmonton, Canada, has accused Air Canada of blatant racism after its crew kicked her off a flight because she had shingles.
Jeanne Lehman told INSIDER she was preparing to fly to her hometown from Halifax when the incident occurred. The French-speaking woman was diagnosed with shingles a few days before her scheduled flight. She said she developed a rash on her forehead on April 20 and doctors at a Halifax hospital diagnosed her with shingles, gave her an anti-viral medication and told her she was not contagious.
By April 22, her condition had worsened and one of her eyes was swollen. Feeling self-conscious, Lehman asked a flight attendant to give her a window seat. The attendant relocated her but then came back wearing a mask and gloves and told her to leave the plane immediately with her.
When Lehman followed her to the boarding area where other passengers were waiting to board, the flight attendant reportedly started shouting at her that she was contagious.
“She said to me, ‘You're contagious.’ She was practically screaming it in front of everyone,” Lehman told INSIDER. “I told her, ‘But I am not contagious! And even if I was, this is not the way to say it. Please don't say this in front of everyone.’”
Lehman tried to explain she had already been to the doctor who had told her she was not contagious, but the flight crew refused to listen to her. The pilot then announced the flight would not be able to fly out that night because a contagious woman had been on the plane. The airline provided the passengers with hotel rooms and told them they would depart the next day. The crew also told Lehman to get a doctor’s note saying she wasn’t contagious. When she asked where the nearest clinic was, an Air Canada representative brought her to the same hospital in Halifax that she had already visited in April 20.
“No one wanted to listen to me,” Lehman said. “I could've told them that I already went to see the doctor. I could've even told them which medication they gave me. But no one talked to me and no one listened to me.”
At the hospital, Lehman was once again diagnosed with shingles and cleared to fly. After she presented the note to Air Canada, she was put on flight the next day. The airline gave her a business flight ticket for her troubles, hotel accommodation and food vouchers.
However, she still continued to experience issues.
When her flight stopped in Toronto and she approached the boarding gate, an Air Canada staff member told her she couldn’t fly because they needed to make sure she was not infectious.
“I didn't even have the strength to talk,” Lehman said. “I told him, ‘It's in your records. In Halifax you were wrong. Are you seriously asking me this again?’”
When she once again showed her doctor’s note, she was allowed to board the plane. However, Lehman said the entire ordeal made her feel humiliated. She also believes racism played a part in it.
“I was treated like an animal,” Lehman told us. “When I asked the flight attendant why she was pulling me out of the plane, she didn't answer me. She didn't even look at me.”
She said the flight attendant wouldn’t have dragged a white woman out of the plane like this or embarrassed her in front of other passengers.
She also claimed Air Canada never apologized to her for the ill-treatment.
"I have this trauma now," she said. "I cannot even sleep. I still have flashbacks."
As for Air Canada, it said the health and safety of its passengers and employees is its utmost priority.
“People will always say things like, ‘Oh, you just like to complain,’ or ‘You just want to bring race into everything,’” Lehman said. “But the truth is there. We live it. I live it.”
Other passengers were also struck by the behavior of Air Canada’s crews toward Lehman.
Was not aware that @AirCanada had been promoted to physician. Good to know. Must be from Toronto to have attitudes like that. It's not like they singled out a person of colour or anything. Oh... It's not like they over-reacted. Oh... It's not like they're incompetent. Oh...— JP Winston (@IronyDigest) April 24, 2018
The poor lady! My mom had shingles on her face like that and the pain she went through was excrutiating and just debilitating. My heart aches for her, every time I think of it. I would assume this lady told the crew what she had. Shame on them for their racist behaviour!— donna flick (@Fujikatsan) April 24, 2018