Lee Charlton
Lee and Jason Charlton were held in a room in the airport for several hoursLee Charlton

A gay couple and their young child were held in a tiny room in Dubai airport for more than two hours after Emirates check-in staff laughed at their relationship.

Lee, 41, and Jason Charlton, 37, were travelling with their young son from Manchester to Durban in South Africa, with a three-hour layover in Dubai.

But when they went to pick up their onward tickets from Emirates airline in the UAE, the pair were asked whether they were brothers, quizzed on how they were related to their son and told they may not be able to travel to South Africa.

Lee Charlton, who frequently travels the route with Emirates for work, is still waiting for an apology from the airline. He told IBTimes UK: "If you're an international brand, your staff shouldn't make people feel the way we were made to feel.

"We were cleared to travel at Manchester airport, but they didn't give us on-bound tickets from Dubai to Durban so we have to pick them up at the desk during a three-hour layover.

"The look the check-in receptionist gave when we handed over our documents, she just couldn't comprehend the situation. She looked at me, my husband and my son and asked me if either of them were my brother.

"When I said no and they were my partner and my son, she just smirked. It was bizarre. She called someone else over and he quite rudely told us he had to take our documents and said we might not be let into South Africa.

"We were escorted into a tiny room, weren't offered any water or anything and no one told us what was going on or why. While we were waiting in the room, Emirates staff kept coming in to have a look at us."

Despite travelling with the couple's marriage certificate as well as the birth and adoption certificates for their son, the Charltons were held for more than two hours and were close to missing their flight when they were finally allowed to continue on their journey.

"There was no explanation about what was happening, my husband Jason was getting anxious, at one point he said to me 'just get me tickets back to Manchester' and our son was getting fractious, he was tired and hungry," Lee Charlton said.

In a statement, Emirates told Gay Star News: "Since 1 June 2015, according to South African regulations, anyone travelling to the country with a minor under 18 needs to prove parenthood or guardianship – while adults travelling alone with their children need to show that they have the consent of their non-travelling partner.

"Like all airlines, we must comply with the laws of every country in which we operate and this is a shared responsibility with passengers, who are required to hold valid travel documents for all countries on their itinerary.

"We note that the Charlton family continued on Emirates flight EK 775 to Durban, as booked. We regret any inconvenience caused, however, compliance with international laws concerning child protection will not be compromised."

Being gay is illegal in the United Arab Emirates and is punishable by deportation, jail time or in some cases the death penalty.

The Charltons had brought the correct documentation and had already been cleared to travel, Lee Charlton said.

"It is right they follow the protocol for child protection, but we had already been cleared to travel from Manchester and had all the right documentation with us.

"After what happened, I did complain, but all I got was a reply on their website which said they were looking into it. I've made an official complaint and that apparently takes 30 days to respond to.

"I just feel they are an international company and they need to do some training and treat their customers fairly. I feel it's arrogance from them that they aren't bothered – but they are a global brand and need to train their staff to deal with all different kinds of people.

"I just didn't expect to be met with such hostility and just want an acknowledgement of what happened and a proper apology from Emirates."