Serbia's Civil Aviation Directorate says national carrier Air Serbia acted in line with regulations when it barred an 11-year-old autistic boy from flying with his family because he was crying at the check-in counter.
In a report released on August 14, the Directorate said that the airline had not been notified in advance that the boy was a special needs passenger and that an on-duty doctor at Belgrade airport had assessed the child as unfit to travel when the family was checking in for the August 6 flight.
The boy’s father, well-known Serbian historian Cedomir Antic, said that his son was crying at the airport but that such behavior was usual given his condition and that he usually stopped within 10 minutes.
The child has flown several times and never had an issue nor had special conditions set for his flights, said Antic, who told the daily Vecernje Novosti last week that he was filing a lawsuit against the airport and the airline.
"During an extraordinary inspection, it was established that the air carrier complied with the provisions of the procedures specified in the manual, and that there was no violation of the Law on Air Traffic and the Law of Obligations," the Directorate said in the report.
Air Serbia said that it regretted the inconvenience the family experienced, but that the decision was made after the boy became "very agitated, and started to behave more aggressively while waiting in the check-in line."
“After an assessment by a doctor, we informed the family that the member of their party, unfortunately, would not be able to travel,” it said in a statement.
Global air-travel regulations, the airline said, put in place procedures for doctors to check any passengers showing signs of anxiety to ensure they are able to fly without posing a safety concern for other passengers and the crew.
Antic questioned the doctor’s assessment, saying that it was carried out in a corridor of the airport, and added that he saw no signs of concern from other passengers when his son was crying. He called on the airline to release video from the terminal to prove that others were not bothered by what was happening.
In response to the incident, Branicka Jankovic, Serbia’s commissioner for the protection of equality, said that institutions and companies need to have additional understanding in such cases to deal fairly with people with health problems or special needs.
"We invite parents...but also all others who think they are discriminated against to submit complaints to the commissioner in order to determine whether the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination has been violated," she said in an August 9 statement.
With reporting by N1 and b92