A London-based charity worker who was denied boarding by Ryanair during a working visit to Montenegro, accused the airport staff of “racism” and “come up with their own immigration rules as they go along”.
Neha Kagal which has a Indian passport and British visa and residence permit, she says she was left angry and humiliated after landing, the employees of Stansted airport refused to let her on a flight in March last year on the grounds that she had no visa for the Schengen area of Europe.
Her case is the latest example of airlines arbitrarily prohibited people flights to avoid potential fines from the destination country.
Embassy of Montenegro in London categorically told Kagan that she did not need a Schengen visa and confirmed this in writing – but ground staff refused to listen.
She says she and colleagues were forced to stand aside while other passengers were allowed to Board. To make their frustration, she says, the airport staff told her that they had to be very “be wary of people with blue (Indian) passport” and told her that it doesn’t matter what the Embassy said, as “there was no way she was going to Montenegro on a Ryanair flight.”
She says: “racist Ryanair, apparently, have their own immigration rules.”
Only after Guardian money intervened, the airline would have to admit that it was wrong.
Kagan, who works for the British charity Imkaan, dedicated to fighting violence against black and minoritised women and girls – it was assumed that the flights to Montenegro with a colleague in the framework of the project of the United Nations to help women combat sexual exploitation.
She went through the Luggage check, where her boarding pass stamped on it “visa check” was done. “But when I got to the gate, they demanded to see a Schengen visa,” she says. “I told them that I contacted the Embassy of Montenegro in support of my visa requirements. While at the airport, I even went so far as to call the Embassy to confirm, but the staff was not. It was embarrassing and humiliating”.
Given the Nature of the work, the charity insists that workers would only go in pairs, so that her colleague could not travel, either. Couples had booked rooms in hotels and hired translators, which was to be paid, despite their no show.
“It was said that they refused me in case I need to be deported back to the UK. If so, then it will cost them £20,000 so they could not take the risk,” she says.
“I was supposed to meet with victims of violence, works in a very small NGOs who were able to find time in your busy schedule to meet with us. In the current climate of hatred and intolerance, I find the behavior of corporations such as Ryanair, disgusting and frightening”.
The representative of Ryanair said: “this customer was denied boarding in error by our third-party agent, swissport, which has since taken the necessary steps to ensure this does not happen again. Since then, we contacted the customer to apologize for the misunderstanding and inconvenience, and to resolve the matter directly.”
He agreed to pay her expenses which she incurred, plus €400 (£352)sanctioned EU compensation of £920.
Company swissport tells the guardian: “we can confirm that the passenger went back to boarding because of the employee’s lack of understanding of the necessary travel documents. We take any complaints of this nature extremely seriously and not to contact the customer, apologize for the inconvenience. The investigation is ongoing. The staff were informed, and we work to provide processes that mitigate such situations do not recur in the future.”
More passengers grounded
In March, the observer reported the case of families fleeing easyjet from Gatwick to Berlin, where his wife held a British passport and her husband, from the Middle East, had travel documents issued by the Ministry of internal Affairs.
Easyjet refused to let on Board the man flight, insisting that he needed a visa to travel to Germany and refused to return the money.
When it was shown that a visa is not needed it is argued that the following procedures Gatwick, Gatwick, but denied it.
Only when the observer’s consumer champion Anna Tims intervened, and within six weeks after their ordeal, did Easyjet to admit that he was wrong, apologized and paid compensation.
Qantas has banned a British couple from boarding a flight in New Zealand in Beijing in March, where they were going to stay for five nights before heading back to the UK. Check-in staff at the airport Christchurch wrongly insisted that the pair need a visa to China before boarding the flight.
However, China introduced new rules that allow travelers to pass through immigration and stay in several cities without a visa if they can prove that they will leave China within 144 hours after arrival.