A black, French-speaking woman from Edmonton, Canada, was removed from an Air Canada flight from Halifax to her home city on April 22 because the crew believed that she had a contagious disease.
Passenger Jeanne Lehman told INSIDER she was diagnosed with shingles a few days before her flight, but doctors in Halifax had given her medication and told her that she was not contagious. Lehman said that she attempted to tell the flight crew that she was not contagious, but she was removed from the plane regardless.
After being taken to the same hospital in Halifax she had visited a few days earlier, where she received the same diagnosis of shingles and a doctor’s note that declared her fit to fly, Air Canada put Lehman on a flight the next day.
However, Lehman claims the experience has left her feeling humiliated and emotionally distressed, and she believes that the incident is an example of systemic racism.
Lehman told INSIDER that she started feeling unwell and developed a rash on her forehead when she arrived in Halifax from Edmonton on April 18.
According to Lehman, the rash spread on her face over the course of the next two days, prompting her to visit a walk-in clinic on April 19 and the emergency room of a hospital in Halifax on April 20, where doctors gave her antiviral medication, diagnosed her with shingles, and told her that she was not contagious.
By the time she boarded her flight on April 22, Lehman said that her skin condition had worsened and one of her eyes became swollen. Feeling self-conscious about her appearance, Lehman asked a flight attendant if she could be given a window seat.
Lehman said that the flight attendant did move her to a window seat, but then returned minutes later wearing a mask and gloves. The flight attendant told Lehman to take her belongings and follow her off the plane. Unsure what was happening, Lehman asked the flight attendant why she was being asked to leave, but said she did not get an answer. “No one talked to me,” Lehman said. “No one listened to me.”
The flight attendant led her off the plane and back into the boarding area, where most of the other passengers were still waiting to board. Lehman claimed that, in front of all these people, the flight attendant loudly announced that she was contagious.
“She said to me, ‘You’re contagious.’ She was practically screaming it in front of everyone,” Lehman told us. “I told her, ‘But I am not contagious! And even if I was, this is not the way to say it. Please don’t say this in front of everyone.'”
Lehman said she tried to explain to the crew that she had already been seen by doctors and that her condition was not contagious, but they did not listen to her.
The pilot announced over the PA system that the flight would no longer be departing that night because a contagious woman had been on the plane. Then the crew removed all of the passengers from the plane, provided them with overnight accommodation, and told them that they would fly out the next day.