Eczema is a common skin condition, often characterized as a dermatitis or inflammation of the skin. It’s believed that more than 30 million Americans are affected by eczema, which is why Emily Loh was so surprised by the reaction she encountered while trying to board an Air France/KLM plane from Barcelona to Paris earlier this week.
“I went to check in at desk 704, where I was initially greeted warmly by the agent. Upon seeing the eczema that covers my arms and hands, he pointed and asked with disdain, ‘What is that?’” said the 30-year-old Canadian in a Facebook post describing the incident.
“I was taken aback but am accustomed to people asking questions about my condition, so I replied ‘It’s eczema, it’s a chronic skin condition I was born with.’”
When the agent continued to express disgust and suspicion, asking Loh whether it was contagious and suggesting she was required to carry a doctor’s note permitting her to fly, she began to grow frustrated and offended. Loh was then instructed to wait at the desk while a supervisor determined whether she would be able to fly.
“The supervisor comes around, gawks at me. At this point, I state that I am rather offended by the counter agent’s actions and tone, to which he attempts to explain by saying that he ‘has to ensure the safety of other passengers.’ I’m sorry, but do you also treat someone with acne or oral blisters or blistering sunburns with the same disdain and humiliation?”
While Loh was eventually allowed to board, the counter agent refused to apologize for his actions.
“In the 10+ years that I have been a frequent traveler, I have NEVER, EVER encountered this situation from any airline,” Loh says. “I don’t even expect that my complaint will be taken seriously, but thought that other travelers who might be suffering from what is a relatively common condition might want to know that they might be treated like a sub-standard customer.”
Since posting her story, both Air France and KLM have responded, apologizing and promising to further investigate the matter.