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Woman with Tourette’s ‘humiliated’ after being refused Air New Zealand flight

A young woman with Tourette's syndrome was left humiliated after being told she needed a medical certificate to board a plane.

Jade O'Connell, 19, was not allowed on the Air New Zealand flight after cabin crew recognised her from a previous trip.

She and her mother Teressa O'Connell had gone through security at Dunedin Airport when staff cited concerns for her safety on the flight.

Teresa told the New Zealand Herald: "It's ridiculous. We've never had to do any of that before.

"It felt like it was about her Tourette's and this crew did not want to deal with her."

She said the incident was humiliating and disappointing and saw Jade miss her first day at Camp Twitch for people with Tourette's – a condition that causes uncontrollable repetitive "tics" such as swearing or blinking.

The pair were due to fly from Dunedin to Wellington on Monday morning.

Jade had flown back to Dunedin from Auckland Airport the night before.

Teresa said Jade suffered a small panic attack shortly before that flight that saw her lose feeling in her legs.

She added: "She alerted the staff at the airport and they were brilliant. They got her in a wheelchair and got her on the plane.

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"I met her in Dunedin, got her in the car, got her home and she came right."

Things appeared normal when the pair went to the airport next morning and approached the Air New Zealand help desk.

She continued: "We did what we always do and went to the desk.

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"We do it so they're aware of Jade and her Tourette's.

"The man at the desk told Jade to go to the gate so we went through security, and then he … told me there was an issue."

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An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said Jade was unable to travel due to medical reasons.

The said: "She has now been provided with documents to complete in order to get medical clearance to fly. We require this to establish that passengers are capable of exiting the aircraft unassisted in an emergency.

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"As each person with Tourette's syndrome can present different characteristics it is important our team are informed.

"We are sorry to hear she missed the first day of camp. However, her safety is our first priority and our staff make decisions with this in mind."

Jade was allowed on board a new flight yesterday morning, but Air New Zealand said she had to have a companion with her in case of an emergency.

The family paid $340 for her grandmother to accompany her, and the pair planned to return to Dunedin on Friday.

Jade was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome in January this year after four years of dealing with it, her mother said.

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