Maltreatment of Nigerian Passport Holders by Foreign Airlines

Chinedu Eze

Stories are rife about how some foreign airlines maltreat passengers with the Nigerian passport.

Many Nigerian travellers have alleged that some foreign airlines that operate into the country treat them with disdain because they carry Nigeria’s green passport.

A recent incidence showed how a Nigerian lady did a video to narrate how she was treated by Turkish Airlines. Although she did not state her name in the video but she narrated her awful experience with the airline because she has the Nigerian passport.

Her narrative, however, tallied with what many others have complained about Turkish Airlines and other international carriers in the past.

Narrating her story, the Nigerian woman said: “So, this is one of those times where travel is not all fun and games. I am at Istanbul right now. And I have a 22 hours layover here in Istanbul. Now before this ticket was booked, it was clearly stated on their website that Nigeria is listed among the countries that get hotel accommodation, if passengers have a 21-hour layover. So you get an option of a hotel or you get an option of a tour package, a free tour package, both sponsored by Turkish Airlines. I got here today and went to the help desk and they say because of my nationality, my Nigerian passport basically, I don’t have access to going into Istanbul.

“For me, it would have to be a consulate visa, not a visa that you can get here at the airport or anything like that. Now, none of this was stated on their website for stopovers. I showed up here this morning and in not so many words, they told me there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. My passport is Nigerian. Oh, they offered me a meal ticket. And that is pretty much the best they can do. A meal ticket and then I have to sit here and wait for 21 hours at the airport. This makes me feel really bad. The staff here are just doing their job, basically. “What they were told is what they are doing. How did we get here? Like, how did we get here? Where our passport is at the point where other people gain free access, free stuff, they get a free hotel, free everything and then my Nigeria passport basically keeps me sitting in the airport for 21 hours. Who are the people in charge of negotiating these things? Is there any government agency in Nigeria who is in charge of making sure that Nigerians are not marginalised like this when they are traveling? Like who are we supposed to talk to in Nigeria? Who is supposed to speak to Turkish Airlines to say if you keep in the airport for 21 hours, what provisions have you made for them?”

She emphasised that there is a hotel at the airport, which if the airline did not want passengers that have Nigerian passport to go to town, they can keep them in the hotels at the airport, but the airline disdainfully refused to accommodate her because she has a Nigerian passport.

“As a matter of fact, this airport has a hotel in it, but Turkish Airlines has no provision to keep Nigerian citizens in the hotel here. However, for any other person, I mean other nationalities, they get to go to a hotel for free or they get a tour package for free. Who is in charge of negotiating these deals? I will ask again. Why are we being sold tickets without an option? Like, how did we get here? I have spoken all the words I possibly can. I have said everything that is necessary to be said here, but it will seem their hands are tied. And right now, they are trying to see if there is a possibility of taking me to the business class lounge, and that is the very best they can do for me today. Where did we go wrong? These are one of the times that I feel really sad to be Nigerian and really, really sad that I do have a Nigerian passport. If this is the last thing I do on earth, I would get another passport because this is the most unpleasant experience ever. And the only reason I am going through this is because I am Nigerian with a Nigerian passport.

“This has to stop. I just came off a trip from my 70th country, and you would imagine that having traveled so much, you know, things would get easier. Well, sometimes it does not, and these are one of the sad realities of holding a Nigerian passport. This really made me feel bad in so many ways. I mean, that feeling of, it is like a stepchild that is not wanted basically. That is how I feel right now because I mean, while I was here trying to state my case and argue my case in any way possible, other people were coming and they were getting hotel reservations or tour packages very easily. But then because of my passport, and I am not here saying the law should change because of me because I am traveling, all of a sudden the law should change. But who is negotiating how we are treated when we have to wait for 21 hours? Who is talking about it? Is there any organisation at all in charge of this?” the Nigerian woman asked.

This incidence is similar to what happened some years ago  when an Indian National accused Turkish Airline of discriminating against him because he was travelling to Nigeria and because of his nationality.

The passenger who narrated his experience in an audio recording shared via messaging app, WhatsApp, claimed he was a Business Class passenger on board a Turkish Airline flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to Nigeria.

The passenger, who claimed the event happened on Thursday, August 17, 2017, explained that he had an eight-hour layover before his flight to Nigeria so he decided to use one of the sleeping suites reserved for Business Class to rest while waiting for his flight.

But he was shocked when an employee of the airline told him he could not use the sleeping suite due to his nationality and the destination he was headed.

 “I’m sitting in Turkish Airline Business Class Lounge I have a layover here from 10:30 am to 6: 30 pm, that is over 8 hours. So, I went to see if there is a place where I could sleep,” he said.

“I go to the desk on the wall and there is a notice saying: “Only for Business Class passengers”. I said fantastic, I’m a Business Class Passenger. And it said it for people who have layover of six hours and more and I said fantastic, I satisfied that also. I have a layover of six hours and more.

“I said to the lady who is there at the desk: Please, can I sleep? Where is the suit, where can I go and have some rest? She said No sir, where are you coming from? I said Mumbai, India and I am going to Nigeria.

“She said but then you can’t sleep. I said why not? She said that’s the rule. I said what rule?”

He said the lady at the desk told him that the airline has a policy that only allowed Business Class passengers who are nationals of mainly Western countries or passengers travelling to Western countries to use the sleeping suites.

“She showed me a list of countries. You have to be coming from them or going to them only then that Turkish Airline recognises that you need sleep.,” the passenger recounted.

“So, if you don’t go to those countries and you don’t come from those countries, and of course all European countries are part of that Washington, is part of that New York is part of that, and so on. Other than that, if you come from India and so forth and basically a non-white country it is assumed that you don’t need sleep.

“So here I’m sitting, even though I’m a Business Class passenger on Turkish Airline, Even though I have a long layover, I’m not allowed to sleep in the sleeping suite of the business class lounge. According to me; because I’m not white. According to their rules because I’m from India and I’m going to Nigeria.

“I think this is something that should be brought to the notice of the highest authorities. Including the president and including the head of the Turkish Airline to say that on what basis do you discriminate on your customers and between your Business Class passengers,” he said.

This is a matter, which many believed that the Nigerian government should strongly look into.

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