Updated Feb. 21, 2018, at 9:30 a.m. EST: Emirates Airlines has responded to request for comment, which has been added below.
Having your period during a long-haul flight is definitely not ideal, but it’s also not grounds for kicking someone off a plane. Unfortunately for Beth Evans — a 24-year-old British woman traveling from Birmingham, U.K. to Dubai — simply mentioning her menstrual cramps was reportedly enough for the flight crew to ask her and her boyfriend to leave the aircraft.
According to The Sun, a flight attendant overheard Evans telling her boyfriend — 26-year-old Joshua Moran — that she was experiencing stomach pains resulting from her period and expressed concern. Evans said her discomfort was a “one out of ten” and that she would have no problem on the seven-hour flight. However, because there was not a doctor available on the plane to assess Evans’ condition, the Emirates crew decided that she should not fly.
SheKnows received the following statement via email from an Emirates Airlines spokesperson regarding the event:
“We can confirm that Ms Beth Evans was offloaded from flight EK40 on Saturday 17th February due to a medical emergency. The passenger alerted the crew onboard that she was suffering from discomfort and pain and mentioned that she was feeling unwell. The captain made the decision to request medical support and offload Ms Evans so she could access medical assistance as needed. The safety of our passengers and crew is of paramount importance and we would not have wanted to endanger Ms Evans by delaying medical help had she worsened during the seven hour flight to Dubai. We hope Ms Evans felt better soon and look forward to welcoming her onboard again soon.”
Both versions of the story appear to line up, with the exception of how the flight crew found out about Evans’s period pain — whether, per Evans, it was overheard, or, according to Emirates, that she directly informed the cabin crew of her condition.
“To be kicked off for period pains — it was madness,” Moran told The Sun. “Beth was in tears and getting upset when the hostess was asking her questions. It’s embarrassing to have to explain about period pains when it’s being overheard.”
Moran also said that the airline did not have a doctor exam Evans, but instead, “just contacted a medical team in the U.S., and they said Beth couldn’t fly.”
Reportedly, the couple — which had each spent £400 (approximately $561) on the flight — had to then spend another £250 (approximately $350) to rebook their travel.
Can this really happen?
The World Health Organization has guidelines for airlines to follow regarding how to handle international travel for passengers to who are ill. According to WHO, airlines have the right to refuse to carry passengers with conditions that may worsen or have serious consequences during the flight.
Additionally, the airlines may require medical clearance “from their medical department/adviser if there is an indication that a passenger could be suffering from any disease or physical or mental condition that:
- may be considered a potential hazard to the safety of the aircraft;
- adversely affects the welfare and comfort of the other passengers and/or crew members;
- requires medical attention and/or special equipment during the flight;
- may be aggravated by the flight.”
However, it remains unclear which category period pain would fall under.
“If cabin crew suspect before departure that a passenger may be ill, the aircraft’s captain will be informed and a decision taken as to whether the passenger is fit to travel, needs medical attention or presents a danger to other passengers and crew or to the safety of the aircraft,” the WHO website indicates.
Periods have long been used as a means to disqualify menstruators from everything from athletic participation to holding positions of power. Menstruation was even touted at one time as a reason female pilots like Amelia Earhart should not be permitted to fly. Of course, that’s completely baseless, and Evans wasn’t even piloting the plane — she was just trying to travel.
So, yes, this example seems ridiculous — and it absolutely is — but should serve as a reminder that periods shouldn’t be used as a means of holding people back or ruling out participation in any other aspects of society.