An airline company has apologized for allegedly forcing a young boy with autism to endure a COVID-19 test in order to board a flight despite having an exemption letter from his doctor.
Ryanair, an Irish-owned airline carrier, issued an apology to a family after an alleged incident involving a 12-year-old autistic boy. Callum Hollingsworth, who was flying home with his family from Spain to the U.K., was subjected to a COVID-19 test on Aug. 3. Katy Hollingsworth, the boy’s mother, purportedly explained to the Ryanair staff that her son was autistic.
Hollingsworth said her autistic son had to take a coronavirus test in January, which had been a “nightmare.” To avoid future issues, the mother requested a medical exemption letter from the boy’s doctor.
The mother presented the medical exemption letter to the Ryanair staff, but she claims they still insisted the boy undergo a COVID-19 test.
Hollingsworth told the BBC that her son, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, “lost it” and suffered a “meltdown because he thought it was his fault.”
“He started hitting the chair and then started hitting himself,” she told the British news outlet. “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,” Hollingsworth continued. “Callum tried to be brave but he was petrified.”
“They said if you don’t have a COVID test you can’t go home, so we had no choice,” Hollingsworth claimed.
The boy’s father recorded a video of the incident, which shows the staff coaxing the visibly distraught boy into agreeing to take the nasal swab COVID-19 test.
A spokesman for Ryanair said the airline “regrets to hear of the stress” caused to the boy and his family.
“Ryanair fully complies with EU and government travel restrictions, which are constantly changing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the airline’s statement said. “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.”
The guidance for travelers returning to the U.K. from Spain: “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.”
Callum allegedly struggled with the coronavirus lockdowns, so the family took him to his “happy place” in Valencia, Spain.