Eurostar bars obese Frenchman Kevin Chenais
- 20 November 2013
- From the section Europe
A clinically obese Frenchman, prevented from flying home from the US by British Airways, has been refused travel on a Eurostar train from London to Paris.
Kevin Chenais, 22, who weighs 230kg (36 stone), was flown back to London this week by Virgin Atlantic after 18 months of treatment for hormone imbalance in Minnesota.
But Eurostar said it could not take him back to France because of safety rules.
Instead, he is being taken across the English Channel by ferry.
Mr Chenais, who comes from Ferney Voltaire, a village in eastern France north of the Swiss city of Geneva, had been due to return from Chicago in October.
His father, Rene, told French media his son's health problems had started when he was six months old, preventing him from having a normal life.
He needed frequent oxygen and regular medical care.
Kevin Chenais had originally travelled to the US in May 2012 with British Airways.
But the airline said last month it was unable to ignore its safety regulations, and said it had since been in regular contact with his family and had provided hotel accommodation.
Rene Chenais told French media they had then tried to cross the Atlantic on the cruise ship Queen Mary but had again been turned down for reasons of "medical security".
Arriving on Tuesday at London's Heathrow Airport on a mobility scooter after a Virgin Atlantic flight from John F Kennedy Airport in New York, Kevin Chenais said he had not stopped crying throughout the journey.
"The airport was very hard on me. I had to walk a long way," he was quoted as saying.
French consular staff helped arrange a Paris-bound train from St Pancras station but Eurostar, which operates trains through the Channel Tunnel, said it could not take him, accepting the situation was "terrible".
While it expressed sympathy for Mr Chenais and his family, the company said it had to observe "very strict rules" that required being able to evacuate the tunnel of all passengers in case of emergency.
Eurostar later said it had arranged overnight accommodation in London and had contacted ferry company P&O, which said it was delighted to help Mr Chenais return to France.
P&O said it was hard to imagine his frustration.
"For us it's very straightforward as we are set up to carry people who have medical needs," the firm said.
According to Eurostar, Mr Chenais was being taken to the ferry in the port of Dover by special ambulance organised by the company on Wednesday afternoon.
On arrival in Calais, the same ambulance would then drive the family back to south-eastern France.