I’ve been working as a software engineer for a company for one and a half years. When I joined, the likelihood of travel seemed small and I did not think to ask for an exemption or mention that traveling can be hard for me. Now, the company has asked me to undertake a 20h+ journey to a client by airplane. Because of problems with my hearing, I avoid loud environments since they are disconcerting to me even with hearing protection and I am afraid that they will exacerbate my problems. The 20h+ trip with multiple noisy airplanes would push me far, far beyond what I have pushed myself since starting to have my hearing problems.

Under these circumstances, would it be ok to ask to be exempted from this trip?

  • 2
    Do you have a disability, confirmed by relevant to your country paperwork?
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 3, 2020 at 22:46
  • 2
    @TymoteuszPaul I have no paperwork, I would like to ask if I could be exempted as a favor.
    – user113264
    Jan 3, 2020 at 22:48
  • 1
    Yup, that's fine that way, but had to clarify first as it matters greatly for all answers
    – Aida Paul
    Jan 3, 2020 at 22:49
  • When was the last time you traveled? Of course, it varies, but most large modern airports and most large modern airplanes are not very noisy these days for their passengers. Is it really just the noise? Personally, I hate going on airplanes, but for other reasons. Jan 4, 2020 at 2:03
  • 1
    13 hours is Dallas to Tokyo, which will almost certainly be on a Boeing 777 or 787. Bose noise-cancelling headphones are VERY good in that particular environment. (I do that hop typically four times a year.) Jan 4, 2020 at 9:39

3 Answers 3


What you gotta do is get in touch with your boss first thing in the morning, explain that you would rather get out of the travel and ask if that would be a lot of trouble. To the question of "why": be honest. Explain that flying makes you uneasy, and 20h+ trip is way past your comfort zone. You can add that it's very likely that after 20h out uneasiness like that you will be very much useless for days, so nothing good will come from the trip anyway. No need to get into specifics of your condition and this will almost certainly be the end of the matter unless your presence on the client site is very crucial to the job.

In case it is, or despite the above, your boss decides to say no, your most likely out is to start the process for getting disability paperwork. Although whether you qualify, and can get this sorted in time is not something we can answer on an internet forum.

  • 1
    Suggest the OP needs to see a doctor.
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 4, 2020 at 0:28

See a doctor, get a formal diagnosis of your disability for your employer.

If you’ve gotten a formal diagnosis of a disability, your employer is obligated under the ADA to offer reasonable concessions to compensate for your disability; if you’re not from America, most OECD nations should have similar laws.

So, my advice to you would be to get a doctor to formally diagnose you, then present copies of this documentation to your boss and HR. After that, you can work with your boss to discuss reasonable concessions- maybe you could telecommute to work with your foreign clients instead of flying halfway around the planet, for instance.

  • What about asking to be exempted as a favor?
    – user113264
    Jan 4, 2020 at 8:20
  • 5
    Get the diagnosis and disability paperwork ANYWAY. Have it in your back pocket when you go ask for the exemption. Jan 4, 2020 at 9:41
  • 2
    Even the request can be phrased more effectively if you see your doctor first: "I am not comfortable doing X" vs. "My doctor advises against me doing X". Jan 5, 2020 at 22:23
  • 1
    A doctor's note has significant legal weight. It can get the employee, the manager, and the company out of trouble. They can explain to the client that they're delayed due to medical issues instead of saying "staff was uncomfortable".
    – Nelson
    Jan 6, 2020 at 6:43

This would go in stages.

First follow Tymoteusz Paul's answer. Just because they picked you to do this trip doesn't mean it has to be you. Your boss may have two people who he thought equally suitable to do this trip and picked you since he wasn't aware of the problem. If you tell him, he may say "no problem, I'll ask Joe to do this". Joe might not be quite as suitable as you are, and the boss might push back asking "are you sure you can't do this job? " and give in if you make clear enough that it is a real problem for you.

If the boss cannot be convinced then you need to see a doctor, and get documentation that says either you cannot do this journey, or that it would be an extraordinary hardship for you. And that documentation goes to your boss and/or to HR. That and expressing strongly that you can't go on that trip, that you will likely have to interrupt your journey or will not be able to do the job should get you out of it.

If the company is unreasonable at this point (or for some reason there is no choice because you are the only one who can do the job, and it absolutely must be done at the other company and can't be done near home):

There are three choices. You go on the trip. You don't go and stay with the company. You don't go and don't stay with the company. Up to the company whether they prefer (2) or (3). And up to the company to convince you to go. Everyone should investigate how to best cope with it. Maybe long breaks between flights. Good noise cancelling head phones. A quieter flight. A seat in a better position. Possibly contacting the airline, they would have more experience with this.

You must log in to answer this question.