A passenger travelling from Hong Kong to the US territory of Saipan was forced to take a pregnancy test before boarding her flight.
Flying Hong Kong Express Airways, Midori Nishida was on her way to visit family and friends on the Pacific island, where she had spent most of her life (“18 years”).
But despite being a regular traveller to Saipan, the 25-year-old said that none of her “previous experience would have prepared me for what happened during my most recent flight: take a pregnancy test or be denied boarding”.
Writing in the Saipan Tribune, Ms Nishida said airline staff had asked her to take the test during check in, even though she had said she wasn’t pregnant in a pre-check in form.
And while staff told her she had been “randomly” selected for the assessment, a questionnaire she was given showed otherwise.
“In our routine initial safety assessment by our ground handling staff, we have reasonable suspicion on the health condition of the passenger above,” a passage in the form read.
“The passenger has been observed to have a body size/shape resembling to a pregnant lady.”
In her article, Nishida said that “they suspected I was pregnant and trying to conceal this to board the flight”.
“Never mind the fact that I had already explained I was only staying on Saipan for 20 days to see my parents and even showed them my departing flight,” she wrote.
“I was then led by a female in plainclothes, who claimed to be the medical practitioner, to a public restroom.
“I was handed a pregnancy test and when the result came out negative, she failed to record this on the medical form and instructed me to throw the test into the trash.
“Satisfied that I had no baby in me, the airline staff finally issued me a boarding pass."
“I am truly appalled by the entire situation: the questionable policy of screening passengers, the non-transparency of the airline staff, and the flagrant discrimination.”
According to The Independent, Saipan has been challenged by growing “birth tourism”, where women give birth, entirely legally, in the US territory to gain American citizenship for their children.
And as Saipan is the only US territory that Chinese citizens can visit without a visa, it is happening a lot; in 2018, more tourists than locals gave birth on the island.
But Nishida said she was fully aware of the birth tourism scene and that didn’t excuse the airline’s behaviour.
“We would like to apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been affected by this,” Hong Kong Express Airways told the Wall Street Journal.
“We have immediately suspended the practice while we review it.”
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