It’s stressful enough traveling by air with children during normal times — this has been made all the more so by the pandemic as mask requirements and the general stress and displeasure of fellow passengers forced to comply with them has tensions between flyers and airline employees alike at an all-time high.
However, for families with autistic children, flying during the era of COVID appears to have turned into a veritable nightmare.
This was one reason that mom Katy Hollingsworth got an exemption for her son Callum so he wouldn’t have to take a coronavirus test when the Irish family was flying to and from Spain, where they’d taken the 12-year-old autistic child to recoup after lockdowns had taken a toll on him.
However, Hollingsworth says that Callum was forced to be subject to the uncomfortable and invasive test by Irish airline Ryanair despite the exemption letter from his doctor.
The airline has since apologized, but not after the child was subject to a horrifying experience which he didn’t fully understand.
“He started hitting the chair and then started hitting himself,” the distressed mother told the BBC, explaining the moment that poor Callum “lost it,” suffering a meltdown because he’d thought the test was “his fault.”
“The staff were just ignoring us. All they kept saying was ‘It’s not our problem.'”
“My husband then had to physically restrain my son with two members of staff to try to get him to have a test,” she explained. “Callum tried to be brave but he was petrified.”
Callum’s father captured part of the incident on video.
Ryanair has apologised, after staff at Valencia airport forced Callum, 12, from Harlow, to have a Covid test despite being exempt because of his autism.
Callum’s dad filmed the incident. pic.twitter.com/AHkmnTrJ2M
— BBC Essex (@BBCEssex) August 12, 2021
“Ryanair fully complies with EU and government travel restrictions, which are constantly changing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a statement from the airline read, having expressed regret to “hear of the stress” Callum went through.
“We continue to make improvements and implement procedures to ensure the health and safety of our passengers and our crew is prioritized while complying with each country’s government guidelines at all times.”
Guidance for travel from Spain to the UK stipulates that, “Everyone aged 11 or over will still have to take a private test within three days before returning – the UK government says this should preferably be a PCR test.”
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