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Americas

Frenchman ‘too fat to fly' BA boards Virgin flight home

© Photo: AFP

Text by Sophie PILGRIM , Jessica LE MASURIER

Latest update : 2013-11-19

A Frenchman deemed too fat to fly by British Airways in October boarded a Virgin flight home on Monday after suffering a second setback earlier this week when he was denied a place on the Queen Mary 2 due to his size.

Barred from boarding a British Airways (BA) flight and denied a place on the Queen Mary 2, Kevin Chenais’s struggle to return to France finally came to an end on Monday when he boarded a Virgin Atlantic Airways flight to London.

Chenais, who is 22-years-old and weighs 230 kilograms (500 pounds), has spent the past year and a half at the not-for-profit Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, receiving treatment for a severe hormone imbalance disorder. Incapacitated, Kevin uses a mobility scooter and requires 24-hour oxygen therapy.

After travelling from Chicago to New York with plans of boarding the Southampton-bound Queen Mary 2, the Chenais family were left devastated when they were told by the cruise liner that due to “security reasons,” Kevin would not be admitted.

‘Discrimination’

Kevin had initially been scheduled to return to France on a British Airways flight from Chicago almost a month ago, but was told by the airline that they couldn’t safely accommodate him, making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic.

“I was upset, disappointed, frustrated... I knew I couldn’t make it home,” Kevin told FRANCE 24.

For his father, René, there is no question about British Airways’ decision. “They discriminated against him,” he said. Chenais had flown to the United States with British Airways a year and a half ago, at which time he weighed a little more than he does now. The airline did not say why he had been allowed to travel at that time.

Kevin’s father told AFP that the 22-year-old had been looking forward to travelling on the QM2, and was “a little sad” to have missed out.

A wood carving enthusiast, Kevin returns home with a trove of carvings he produced during his stay and a slight American accent when he speaks English.

‘A rare problem’

Kevin’s mother Christina said that doctors had been unable to come up with a treatment for Kevin’s disorder during his time in the US.

“He’s been from one hospital to the next... Finally we know is that it’s a rare, rare, problem that Kevin has,” she told FRANCE 24.

The family is considering suing BA for discrimination. But before then, they still need to make travel arrangements from Britain to France.

Cunard, the shipping company which runs the QM2, was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

Date created : 2013-11-19

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