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Aeroflot A320 with Sharklet. Image courtesy Airbus.

Aeroflot sends US citizens to India because they are “Indian”

Any frequent flyer has missed or had a connection cancelled while in the air. When it happens during an international transit, the experience can be even more frustrating. However I have found the attitude of the ground crew is the most important factor in keeping up a good passenger experience in these situations.

A BA reader forwarded me a story and some Facebook posts of a crazy experience some American passengers had with Aeroflot at Moscow airport. I had seen a video of this incident a few days back, but yesterday another passenger has shared a post explaining the his entire experience.

After reading through the posts, the brief version of events is that these passengers were traveling from New Delhi to New York via Moscow. Upon reaching Moscow, they were informed their flight to the US had been cancelled and that they would be “deported” back to India.

The posts allege that while American passengers of Indian origin were only being given the option to go back to India, white American passengers were being accommodated on other flights to the US or were being made comfortable in the lounge while further plans could be made.

Usually I wouldn’t just believe a frustrated Facebook post screaming racism. But the video uploaded by another passenger in this situation shows an Aeroflot employee holding up an American passport and saying “I am talking now with Indian passengers” while telling them they would be sent back to Delhi pretty much leaves no room for interpretation.

While the passengers seem to be argumentative in this video probably because of the long wait at the airport – the attitude of the Aeroflot employee seems to be less than helpful. Him slamming the passenger’s passport down into the desk and walking off seems to prove the passenger’s version of events that the airline wasn’t interested in helping out this particular group of passengers.

The entire account of the incident by one of the passengers.

On Jan 7, I had my return flight to New York City (JFK airport). On landing in Moscow, I learned that my flight from Moscow to New York (JFK) SU102 was cancelled. I stood on the information counter over 10 hours to learn my fate. I was repeatedly told that all the flights are full and I have no option but to return back to New Delhi. I informed the representatives behind the desk that I am US citizen and I need to go to my country, my home i.e. US. I begged the Aeroflot Airlines representatives (Mr. Gregoriy and Ms. Kitora) that they can send me to anywhere in the US, places in Europe on the next available flight. I was ready to wait at the airport at my own expense.

To my horror, I saw many US citizens (white in color) come by and get their tickets for later flights or be told to wait in lounge and will be called once the details are ready. Once such couple was coming in from Saigon with JFK as the final destination. I was shocked to see lies and racism at full play at the airport. US citizens were given separate treatment based on color. One woman with a crying baby was rudely told to come back after the baby is quiet.

In the meantime, Aeroflot Airlines official, Mr, Mikhail, issued me a boarding pass on a flight back to Delhi. I informed him that I am a US citizen and wanted to go back to my country. He got very rude, shouted at me and said that this is ‘only’ choice I have otherwise I would face heavy fines and deportation. I informed that if they have to deport me it will have to be my home country i.e. US. He told me I will be deported to New Delhi. So, either I go at my will or they will send me against mine. I was left with no choice and had to board the flight back to New Delhi. I have been flying for over 17+ years and never ever has been harassed or treated this way.

When I arrived in New Delhi on January 8th, there was only one Aeroflot Airlines employee (Mr. Neeraj) at the airport. He told me that he had no information regarding when I would be issued a new ticket, could not offer hotel and food. He told me to take a taxi and find my own hotel. He gave me contact details where I could speak with a representative and get details. The office was to open only at 10.00am IST. With nowhere to go, I took a flight to Jaipur. I emailed the office that morning and called the phone number provided to me but nobody bothered to answer all day. Next day, I had to send an acquaintance of mine to figure out the situation because Aeroflot Airlines representatives were neither responding to calls nor emails. He explained the situation to the employees and they said the would issue me a ticket but for the 13th. I asked what if I fly other airline as I need to get back to work but the ticket is expensive and will they cover? They said no.

Because of the lies and racism faced by me, I have lost a week of work (I will not be allowed to to vacation this year) and faced tremendous mental stress. Aeroflot has left me scarred. I have videos and testimonials from passengers to prove these incidents.

The original video that was shared a few days back.

I think the incident also shows the incompetence of the airline. I find it very hard to believe that these passengers couldn’t be rerouted to any other destination in the US directly or through Europe on any airline despite the operational issues in the US during the beginning of January.

I would also like to know if what the airline did was legal? What are the rights of passengers in a situation like this? Can you forcibly be deported to a country that you are not a citizen of? If any of our readers have insight on this – please post in the comments below.

About Vedant Agarwal

A frequent flyer for both work and pleasure - Vedant has held elite status on many of the major alliances and airlines. Also an avid aviation photographer, his pictures have been published in and on the covers of many international publications.

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