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Anger over autistic kid kicked off Swiss plane

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Anger over autistic kid kicked off Swiss plane
Photo: AFP
10:44 CEST+02:00
Swiss International Air Lines is facing embarrassment after it kicked an Israeli family off a flight to Geneva from Zurich because their eight-year-old autistic boy was crying uncontrollably.

The parents expressed anger over the incident in a case that made headlines in Swiss media on Tuesday.

The incident occurred more than a week ago after the Zalmanovich family boarded the Swiss plane to Geneva for a connecting flight after arriving in Zurich from Israel in a trip to visit relatives that had been prepared two months in advance, according to reports.

Moments before the plane was about to take off, the child, Yaheli Zalmanovich, began crying and threw up over himself, Israel Hayom reported online.

Airline staff asked the parents to disembark with the boy.

“They shamefully kicked us off the flight," Yaheli's mother, Noa Zalmanovich, told Israel Hayom.

“We were left with our luggage shocked and humiliated,” Zalmanovich said.

“It was 10pm and luckily we were able to catch the last train to Geneva,” she said.

“In an age when one in every 68 children is diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, I would expect a slightly more understanding response from a company that calls itself a luxury airline.”

To compound the family's misfortunes, the family discovered that Swiss had cancelled their returns tickets after being classified as a “no-show” for the connecting flight to Geneva, Israel Hayom reported.

Swiss reportedly agreed to restore their spots on the return flight for 2,000 francs ($2,080).

But the family decided to fly back by El Al airline.

“The financial costs is nothing compared to the mental anguish that this experience caused, the exhaustion and the humiliation,” Yaheli's mother told Israel Hayom.

Swiss, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lufthansa, responded with a statement apologizing for what happened.

“We deeply apologize for the ordeal that this family was put through,” the statement said.

“This kind of conduct is not characteristic of this company and does not coincide with our policy; on the contrary."

Swiss said that it “quietly makes donations and even recently flew a group of dozens of sick children to Switzerland.”

It added: “We want to stress that the incident is under strict scrutiny and we will make sure that the family is compensated.”  

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