Pregnant St Albans woman endures 40-hour train journey after being barred from flight
PUBLISHED: 12:04 16 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:04 16 October 2019
A pregnant St Albans woman and her family were left stranded in Italy after the airline would not allow her to fly home.
Katie Plummer, her partner Giorgio Lamonaca and their three-year-old daughter Enya were not allowed to fly from Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport in Italy on Friday, September 20, because Katie was 31 weeks pregnant.
The couple flew with Wizz Air, and were not told that they needed a 'fit to fly' document, which is recommended from 28 weeks' gestation. They were allowed to fly from Luton Airport to Bari with no document, but were stopped at Bari airport before their return journey five days later.
Giorgio said: "Katie was standing at the departure gate waiting for confirmation from the pilot that she could fly. They left her at the desk with everyone on the plane waiting for his decision, Katie making it very clear that she is not a high-risk pregnancy and would sign to take full responsibility for any risk.
"At this point she was hysterically crying at the prospect of being left in Italy with no return flight. Myself and my toddler were advised to get on the plane - our buggy was on there and our hand luggage."
Katie wrote and signed a written statement claiming full responsibility for herself on the flight, which was witnessed and photographed by airport staff. The family were then allowed onto the plane, but the pilot would not accept the document and argued it would be accepted in Italy but not the UK, refusing to fly with Katie on board.
"In front of the whole plane the pilot refused to fly Katie home, saying he would not take the risk," Giorgio said. "Which is ludicrous considering the amount of stress, upset and trauma he put her and my toddler through during this whole ordeal - a risk far greater than a flight."
The couple were escorted from the plane, and felt pressured into booking return flights home the following Wednesday. They found a hotel for the night, but were worried they would be refused permission to fly again.
Giorgio said: "At this point Katie was extremely anxious, not only about the cost, the loss of earning from having to miss work and the uncertainty of the next five days, but the risk of all of this on our unborn baby.
You may also want to watch:
"We felt stuck in a corner with no help at all from any of the staff involved, alone and lost. Katie decided she wanted to get home immediately as she was worried any extra stress would be damaging for the baby."
The family ended up taking a train at 6.35am the next day from Bari to Milan, then another train to Paris, taking 16 hours and costing £422. From there they took a coach to London Victoria, costing another £80.
They had no time to get food for their journey other than chocolate and crisps, Enya was sick on the overnight coach, and Katie had to run to catch the coach from Paris at 11.30pm as their train was delayed.
Giorgio added: "The whole ordeal was traumatic, disgusting and completely unnecessary. We accept that we were unaware of the policy to have a medical certificate from 28 weeks which we did not assume would be needed as Katie is not a high-risk pregnancy with no medical history.
"If Wizz Air had followed their own policy, which they were so adamant to enforce on September 20, then Katie would never have flown out to Italy from Luton five days previously to be left distressed, distraught, stressed and stranded with no support over a 2.5 hour flight she was capable and perfectly fit to fly.
"Instead she undertook a 40-hour traumatic journey across Europe with a toddler, no money and no access to a proper meal."
A statement from Wizz Air said: "Wizz Air is sorry to hear of the inconvenience the passenger in question experienced as a result of not having the correct medical certification to approve her fitness to travel by air.
"Our policy, as stated on the website and within Wizz Air's General Conditions of Carriage, requires pregnant women over their 28th week of pregnancy to provide a medical certificate in order to fly. Without this, the captain of the flight can make the final decision on whether Wizz Air's strict regulations for passenger safety can be met. In this instance, this was deemed not to be the case. The safety of our passengers remains our number one priority, and therefore we strongly recommend all passengers check the Wizz Air website if they have any questions about their suitability for travel ahead of their flight."