South African airline apologises after Paralympic medallist Tyrone Pillay stopped from boarding with prosthesis

South African Tyrone Pillay celebrates his bronze medal during the Men's Shot put final of the the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept 12, 2016.
South African Tyrone Pillay celebrates his bronze medal during the Men's Shot put final of the the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on Sept 12, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africa's national airline SAA has apologised to the country's Paralympic medallist Tyrone Pillay after he was stopped from boarding a flight with his spare prosthetic leg, a spokesman said Wednesday (Sept 21).

The incident happened on Tuesday as Pillay was returning from the Paralympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, where he won a bronze medal in shot put.

The medallist revealed on Twitter that a South African Airways (SAA) staffer had stopped him from boarding a connecting flight from Johannesburg to Durban, his hometown, carrying his spare prosthetic leg.

"Terrible treatment of a Paralympic athlete as the staff refuse to allow my prosthetic leg on board," he tweeted.

"Can't believe I get treated like this after winning a medal for our country. Totally disrespectful."

He had been allowed to board the same airline from Sao Paulo to Johannesburg with his prosthetic leg as his carry-on luggage.

SAA was the official carrier of the South African team to the Games.

Spokesman Tlali Tlali said the airline had apologised to Pillay for the incident "which has left all of us with a terrible aftertaste".

"SAA has already made contact with Mr Pillay and we have apologised to him," said Tlali.

Tlali said the prosthetics should have been treated as carry-on luggage or an assistive device.

The airline is investigating the incident.

Pillay was born with an abnormality on his left foot and needs assistance walking.