Taiwan's EVA Air may refuse to serve controversial passenger

Taiwan's EVA Air said it will refuse to serve controversial passenger if he cannot provide proof of his needs and provide a caretaker

EVA Air representatives bow to apologize.

EVA Air representatives bow to apologize. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After news broke earlier this week that a controversial American passenger who forced EVA Air flight attendants to engage in humiliating acts had somehow booked a new flight through Taiwan for May, the airline today announced that the man has been included on its special assistance list and he will be required to provide his own caretaker, and they are consulting with legal experts as to whether they can refuse to take him onboard.

On Jan. 19, an American man who is estimated to weigh 200 kilograms, boarded an EVA Air flight by wheelchair and insisted that a female flight attendant help him lower his underwear and wipe his buttocks while sitting on a toilet. The flight attendant was deeply traumatized by the incident and shared her frustrations about the episode on Facebook, before speaking to the press on Jan. 21 and later filing charges for sexual harassment.

At a press conference held today to respond to reports that the passenger had booked another ticket in May, despite the recent incident and an alleged history of similar inappropriate behavior, EVA Air Spokesman Ke Chin-cheng (柯金成) dsof on the previous 20 flights the passenger had taken on the airline, he had never been reported for disorderly conduct, with the exception of a flight last May. On a flight last May, he did ask flight attendants to help him use the toilet, however they refused his request and sought assistance from other passengers to resolve the situation.

Ke refuted claims that he had defecated in his seat and made passengers endure the stench for 10 hours on a prior EVA Air flight.

When asked by the media whether EVA Air would refuse to take the passenger in May, Ke said that they are trying to respect his privacy and avoid violating anti-discrimination codes, but because the passenger has been accused of committing sexual harassment against two flight attendants on Jan. 19 and two of them have filed lawsuits with Taiwan's Aviation Police Bureau, they are consulting with lawyers on ways of protecting crew members from him.

When asked why the passenger has not already been banned from the airline, Deputy General Manager of EVA Air's Legal Protection Department Hsu Hui-sen (許惠森) cited U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation PART 382 which states that airlines "may not require a person with a disability to travel with another person, except in certain limited circumstances where the rule permits the airline to require a safety assistant." However, because the two flight attendants have already filed a lawsuit against the passenger, unless there is a situation in which he must be transported by law, the passenger will be rejected.

Even if the airline must carry him by law, EVA Air said it will take steps to ensure that no additional harassment or injustices are inflicted upon passengers or crew. Ke said there had been many discussions about the case during company internal meetings with the flight attendants, and management reiterated that the crew has the right to refuse unreasonable requests by passengers.

As for the status of the request for occupational sickness leave by the two flight attendants for the physical and mental trauma they suffered during the incident, Ke said a total of seven flight attendants assisted the passenger in using the restroom.

The two flight attendants asked for occupational sickness leave, but Ke said this must be approved by the Bureau of Labor Insurance. Ke said that the company has put in a request for leave and rest for the parties involved.