A New Zealand woman says she was "absolutely humiliated" when a Jetstar flight attendant demanded a "pregnancy" medical certificate to fly despite her not expecting a baby.
Kelsey Hughes, 21, of Rangiora, was queuing to board her flight to Christchurch after a weekend in Wellington for the World of WearableArt show.
The flight attendant scanned her ticket and she moved on towards the plane. "Then he stopped and came over to me, holding up the whole queue, and said: 'Excuse me, ma'am, do you have a medical certificate to fly?'
"I said: 'A medical certificate? No, why?', and he said: 'You need a medical certificate to fly with your pregnancy'."
Mortified, Miss Hughes explained that she was not expecting. "He said: 'Oh. Really? Oops. Sorry!', then just turned around and walked away. He just brushed it off as though it was a simple mistake that anyone could make."
Miss Hughes, who was travelling alone, said she was "absolutely humiliated at the gate in front of God knows how many people".
Another passenger had apologised on behalf of the flight attendant for being "so inappropriate".
She said the attendant avoided her for the rest of the flight. "He couldn't even make eye contact with me. I was not impressed."
Under Jetstar policy, passengers who are more than 28 weeks pregnant are required to carry a letter from a doctor or midwife declaring them fit to fly.
A spokesman for the airline said ground and cabin crew were expected to request a medical certificate "if they have reason to believe" a passenger was pregnant.
He apologised for any embarrassment caused to Miss Hughes and said a member of Jetstar's customer care team would be in touch with her directly.
Miss Hughes has a 15-month-old son and said, at 70 kilograms, she did not resemble a mother-to-be. "I don't look eight weeks pregnant, let alone 28 weeks. I would have had to have been huge."
Since August, two mothers-to-be have been bumped from Jetstar flights in separate incidents, despite having flown with the budget airline days earlier.
Miss Hughes questioned the logic of asking for a medical certificate at the departure gate, and said she felt sorry for pregnant women who flew with Jetstar.
Proceed with caution
Etiquette expert Dale Cameron, author of Modern Etiquette - A Practical Guide, was "quite shocked" a Jetstar flight attendant would be "so reckless as to assume someone is pregnant without being certain".
But he expected that most people knew not to make the same mistake. Some topics, such as finance and religion, were best approached with caution, or avoided altogether.
"Anything to do with a person's appearance clearly falls in to this category," he said. "A certain level of common sense goes a long way when it comes to social interaction. Don't make assumptions and put yourself in a position where you could be wrong."