Mother Returning From Son's Medical Treatment Denied Flight Over COVID Test

A Canadian woman said she and her son were kept from boarding a flight home after he received medical treatment in the United States because she did not have proof of a negative COVID-19 test—even though they qualified for a medical-care based exemption.

Chrystal Becker, 37, of Burlington, Ontario, was set to fly home on an Air Canada flight on August 26 with her four-year-old son, who was receiving specialized treatment for arthrogryposis multiplex congenita in Philadelphia, CTV News reported.

Arthrogryposis multiplex congenita refers to the development of multiple joint contractures affecting at least two areas of the body before birth, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Becker successfully checked into the flight online. But when she arrived at the airport and went to the gate, an agent asked for proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

While most people flying into Canada from other countries are required to produce a negative test, there are some exemptions. One is made for people who "must leave and return to Canada to receive essential medical services in another country," according to the Canadian government's website.

"It's intended for Canadians who require essential medical treatment (for example, life-saving treatment) outside of Canada. One person may accompany them," according to the Canadian government. They must provide written proof from a Canadian healthcare practitioner that the services are essential as well as proof from the practitioner in the foreign country that the treatments were provided.

Becker explained the exemption and provided the necessary documents, but the agent reportedly would not let them board.

"I showed it to them multiple times, I asked for a supervisor, and at the end of it all they still did not allow us to board. They tried to say the exemption only applies to my son and not myself," she told CTV News. "There is absolutely no reason I was being denied boarding and that was the most difficult part. I just kept repeating myself but nobody wanted to hear me, nobody listened, nobody helped. It was ridiculous."

Becker said that once the plane left, the agent gave her a phone with Air Canada's booking line. But after an hour waiting on hold, Becker decided to rent a car and make the 466-mile trip home.

She described the situation as "dehumanizing."

"It made me left feeling very disheartened and discarded," Becker said.

When Becker crossed the border by land, the border agent was familiar with the exemption and she had no problem.

Air Canada told CTV News that while they "understand" her frustration, "the decision to deny boarding was based on consultations with Canada Border Services Agency and the direction we received from the CBSA." They said they will refund her for the fare, but Becker said she has not received a communication from them.

Meanwhile, two separate agencies—CBSA and the Public Health Agency of Canada—told the Canadian news outlet that both Becker and her son qualified for the exemption.

Newsweek reached out to Air Canada for comment Tuesday morning, but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.

Air Canada

A Canadian mother said she and her son were denied entry onto an Air Canada plane for not having a negative COVID-19 test, even though they qualified for an exemption. Here, an Air Canada plane is seen landing in San Fransisco June 30. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images