Hit or Miss? Travel companies contend with 36-stone Frenchman's voyage home

Kevin Chenais, a 22-year-old man with a hormone condition, has had trouble returning to France after receiving medical treatment in the US.

Kevin Chenais: The 36-stone Frenchman was grounded by BA (Picture credit: Getty Images)
Kevin Chenais: The 36-stone Frenchman was grounded by BA (Picture credit: Getty Images)

Chenais, who weighs 36 stone, was reportedly stranded in Chicago after British Airways banned him from boarding his return flight. He was then turned away by the Queen Mary II cruise ship.

He was able to reach London on a free Virgin Atlantic flight, but once there could not board a Eurostar train. Eurostar said his size presented a safety risk in case of evacuation, but paid for his hotel, a private ambulance and ferry costs.

P&O took Chenais, who requires round-the-clock oxygen and medical attention, from Dover to Calais yesterday. So, did the travel business as a whole handle this difficult episode well?

How I see it

Oliver Parsons, group managing director, Tonic Life

This is first and foremost a visual story, one that immediately evokes society’s views and biases against people who are overweight or obese.

Without knowing the full picture and details, viewers may have overlooked the fact that this patient actually suffers from a hormonal medical condition.

But as the story developed, BA unfairly got the brunt of the negative coverage. It is not the first airline to have to turn away a passenger due to size (Virgin’s offer of a free ticket ensured a positive profile for it).

From a communications perspective, the carriers could have sought a third-party medical view on the risks that the Frenchman and other passengers may have faced.

Although reactive, Eurostar’s apology and efforts to find and pay for an alternative solution preserved its reputation and P&O carrying him across the channel also made a nice point about its service flexibility and capability.

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