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Forced to Take a Pregnancy Test Before Boarding

Forced to Take a Pregnancy Test Before Boarding
Jennifer Billock

The Northern Mariana Islands have a unique relationship with Chinese visitors. It’s a U.S. commonwealth that doesn’t require Chinese citizens to have a visa to visit. However, it does require special medical forms and, on occasion, additional screening.

In November, twenty-five-year-old Midori Nishida from Hong Kong was forced to undergo additional screening that she says was discriminatory. She was traveling to the islands to visit her family but, before she was allowed to board, the airline–Hong Kong Express, which was recently acquired by Cathay Pacific–told her that she was chosen for a random “fit-to-fly” assessment.

The assessment included a medical authorization form and a pregnancy test. Information filled out on the form by airline representatives indicated that they thought that she looked pregnant. The test would confirm it.

So, an employee took her to the bathroom, gave her the test strip and told her to go into the stall and use it.

“I wanted to make sure that this was really mandatory, so I asked them, ‘Do I really have to take this test, is this necessary?’ ” said Nishida, a Japanese citizen, in an interview with the Washington Post. “They said, ‘You can opt out for the test,’ but that means they would deny me boarding the flight. I felt like my hands were tied, so I had no choice.”

 

 

 

Hong Kong Express said in a statement that it had suspended the practice and apologized “for the distress caused.”

Cathay Pacific later released a statement that said, among other things, they were under new management:

In response to concerns raised by authorities in Saipan, we took actions on flights to Saipan from February 2019 to help ensure U.S. immigration laws were not being undermined.

Under our new management, we recognize the significant concerns this practice has caused.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said that it has not asked airlines that fly to the Northern Mariana Islands to ask passengers for pregnancy tests. However, officials in Saipan have “raised the issue” with “local and international tourism partners, stakeholders, and airline partners as a recommendation to protect the health of passengers and our overall tourism industry from potential overstayers,” Kevin Bautista, press secretary for the office of the commonwealth’s governor, said in a statement.

He went on to say that Nishida’s experience with Hong Kong Express “very unfortunate. We do hope that any airline’s policy, regardless of what it is, prioritizes the privacy and safety of the passenger,” Bautista said.

Nishida says she eventually got an apology from the airline but only after the Wall Street Journal started asking questions for a report published last week.

 

View Comments (7)

7 Comments

  1. arcticflier

    January 17, 2020 at 4:17 am

    Quote:
    “They said, ‘You can opt out for the test,’ but that means they would deny me boarding the flight. I felt like my hands were tied, so I had no choice.”

    Sounds like she had a choice.

  2. VAAGE

    January 17, 2020 at 5:40 am

    Absolutely fantastic article! Only two small minor comentsæ
    ①You say “But, what not quite as many people know is that Priority Pass also gives you free credits for food and drinks at a ton of airport restaurants”. I think this is wrong. I think almost ALL priority pass user are aware of the fact that it gives you free credits for food and drinks at not “a ton” but at least a few airports
    ②For Kansai, it’s not Bontejyu, but Botejyu
    I would hate for the Flyertalk News forum to become clickbate and unprecise.
    But, I guess you have to care for your advertisers as well.
    Good luck for the future! Don’t give up yet!

  3. afCAMEO

    afCAMEO

    January 17, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Sure ArcticFyer, we want to do a test for testicular cancer before you can fly, opt out and you can’t fly. That’s a choice?

  4. zitsky

    January 21, 2020 at 2:20 pm

    @articflier, if someone puts a gun to your head and asks for your wallet, is that a choice?

  5. cashmccall

    January 29, 2020 at 5:13 am

    sucks she was so fat she looked pregnant but whatever……if the island is a known spot for popping out babies and granting citizenship then test all female. screw you gen y and z and your pc ideas…..the world isn’t some they said or he said crap.

  6. Long Zhiren

    January 29, 2020 at 6:41 am

    At some point, this may be needed to combat the abusive practice of birth tourism. No thanks to those who’ve abused the system. The abusers should be held accountable.

  7. bostontraveler

    February 9, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    @arcticflyer. Hate to break it to you but the whole world is not dying to come to the US, particularly a Japanese citizen living in Hong Kong… I think she’s probably quite well-off thank you.

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