Crew aboard a United Airlines flight removed a passenger they thought might have the flu, even though the passenger claimed not to be ill. Instead, Mitra Mostoufi says medication she took for restless leg syndrome made her nauseous and she asked for an air sickness bag. When she made this request, a United employee asked her to leave.
Regardless of Ms. Mostoufi’s actual ailments, this incident brings up an issue sure to surface again: Should the airlines police the flu? Flight attendants are not doctors, after all, and are liable to overreact to symptoms and, in the case of Ms. Mostoufi, inconvenience a customer due to a misdiagnosis.
On the other hand, planes are pretty much flying petri dishes as it is (don’t think too much about that image). Considering the tight quarters and recirculated air, isn’t it the airlines’ responsibility to thwart the spread of disease whenever it can?
If you ask me, the airline should not decide a passenger is too sick to fly unless it is blatantly obvious. A cough, sniffle, or even upset stomach could indicate any number of issues unrelated to the flu—anything from allergies to bad airport food. It’s the individual passenger’s right as a paying customer to decide when he or she is too sick to fly.
That said, if you’re sick, please don’t fly (that is, if you either bought a refundable ticket or travel insurance, or don’t mind paying hundreds in change fees…).
I’d love to know what you think, so please leave a comment below. Thanks!