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Bangkok Airways racial profiling & harassment at boarding gate

Bangkok Airways racial profiling & harassment at boarding gate

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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:11 am
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Bangkok Airways racial profiling & harassment at boarding gate

Hi all, I’m a longtime reader and aviation/travel/miles enthusiast, but registered because a business contact of mine in his late 60s asked me to report his (and other passengers’) recent bad experience with Bangkok Airways.

I was asked to post his message word by word, but in case you consider it’s necessary to remove names or other sensitive details, please feel free to edit them out. The passenger himself was happy to post all details publicly and transparently.

“Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dear Online Travel Community, Journalists and other Interested Parties:

My name is Mr. Somchai Imran Khan. My mother was from Lampang, Thailand while my father was from Pakistan. So I am half Thai and half Pakistani, and have all the rights to carry a passport of Pakistan. I have been working for international organizations for years.

What has happened to me at the counter of Bangkok Airways at Suvarnabhumi International Airport on Sunday, March 17, 2019 is not what should have occurred to me and to any visitor to Thailand, whose “Land of Smiles” campaigns and the policy of tourism promotion are on the advertising constantly.

On that day, I was obligated to visit Cambodia. I planned to leave for the city of Siem Reap and return to Bangkok from Phnom Penh. I had purchased a one-way ticket of Bangkok Airways Flight PG 905 and a one-way return ticket from Thai Airways Flight TG 585. At the airport, I used an automated check-in machine which scanned my passport and issued me a boarding pass of C4. Upon arriving at Gate D1A, there was an announcement calling me to a counter of Bangkok Airways. There I met a male official in his 20’s, who requested to re-check my passport and started to ask some unbecoming and flight-unrelated questions to me. For instance, he asked about my means of transportation from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. I asked him why I was treated with an interrogation. He then called someone on the phone and had me talk to her. She said she was a check-in supervisor and her name was [mod: employee name redacted]. This woman had come up with even stranger questions and every bit unrelated. I started to feel that my individual rights and my country’s name were grossly insulted and discriminated. Thus, I claimed my legitimate rights and demanded to see an evidence that Pakistan was on a watch list, which she refused and offered no reply when I asked why this piece of information was not on her airline’s website, if it indeed was true. For her question about whether or not I had a visa into Cambodia, I immediately showed her of my visa of the number [mod: number redacted], which was issued on March 13. But what’s more important is that Pakistan and Cambodia have had a joint treaty giving each other the rights to apply for a visa on arrival, which every Pakistani can apply at the airport. There was no ground to ask me such a question. However, I had been most patient all through this nonsense, up until I felt and feel a violation. They even made me the very last passenger to get on board. At the same time, there were 2 more passengers from Pakistan who were held back like myself. It was hard not to think of the entire incident not as an act of extreme prejudices.

I was telling this happening as to exhibiting the strange behavior of these 2 officials of Bangkok Airways, which I am not sure stemming from personal prejudices, ignorance of international practices, or an excessed sense of self-importance. If a passport of Pakistan was the cause of all this, then their questions did not get them to learn about anything, except to create disgust and possibly some hatred. There are many more civilized ways that Bangkok Airways can adopt to reach their goal, whatever it was. I regard their action as ill-considerate, ignorant, and uncivilized. I believe most Thais, who are fairly decent, would not want international visitors to be treated this way.

I demand no compensation from Bangkok Airways. However, if the airline’s executives are of decency and want to be accountable for, I will be glad to meet up with the very top executive along with these 2 officials, so we can lay ground for the future that no visitor will be mistreated in such a way ever again.

Respectfully,

Mr. Somchai Imran Khan”

Last edited by NWIFlyer; Mar 20, 19 at 5:34 am Reason: Remove personal information
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:18 am
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Aside from his personal experience it would be interesting to understand how prevalent this kind of behaviour is in Thailand and the region, and if this might be specific to certain airlines or “target countries”.

It is really sad, especially experienced by a senior citizen.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:18 am
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I have been asked many times about return tickets, visas and the like and never took it personally. I do not hold a Pakistan passport, either. Seems like a mountain out of a molehill type situation.
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Last edited by NWIFlyer; Mar 20, 19 at 5:35 am Reason: Remove quote containing personal information
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:20 am
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Originally Posted by Jaimito Cartero View Post

I have been asked many times about return tickets, visas and the like and never took it personally. I do not hold a Pakistan passport, either. Seems like a mountain out of a molehill type situation.
But at the gate? Before boarding?
(rather than at immigration)
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:29 am
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Originally Posted by Oneworld787 View Post


But at the gate? Before boarding?
(rather than at immigration)
Yes and yes.

When you’ve flown millions of miles to 60 or so countries, you’ve likely run into a lot of situations. It’s honestly not a big deal.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:34 am
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Originally Posted by Jaimito Cartero View Post

Yes and yes.

When you’ve flown millions of miles to 60 or so countries, you’ve likely run into a lot of situations. It’s honestly not a big deal.
And what’s the reason for it?
Why do the airline staff do it, rather than immigration officials?
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:34 am
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Originally Posted by Oneworld787 View Post


But at the gate? Before boarding?
(rather than at immigration)
For me: yes. Passport check. Passport re-check. Especially if I used a kiosk rather than checking in at a counter.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:35 am
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Originally Posted by Oneworld787 View Post


And what’s the reason for it?
Why do the airline staff do it, rather than immigration officials?
Because if you arrive in a country without the proper documentation or visa then it is the responsibility of the airline to return you from whence you came.

Checking passports is a cheap and easy way to avoid this expense.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:37 am
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And why would the airline staff make up a story about a “country watch list”?

Are you all saying it’s not racial profiling even if only Pakistani people were stopped, rather than other nationals?
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Old Mar 20, 19, 2:40 am
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Originally Posted by Oneworld787 View Post
And why would the airline staff make up a story about a “country watch list”?

Are you all saying it’s not racial profiling even if only Pakistani people were stopped, rather than other nationals?
I have not knowledge about that.

But I do wonder if this occurred during the Pakistan-India skirmish and no-fly situation? Perhaps the comments were somehow related to that?

In any case, I have had my passport checked, re-checked and triple checked by airline staff. I have been held back for security screenings and been the last to board a plane - even while traveling in international 3-cabin first class.

These things happen when one travels.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 4:38 am
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Because he checked in at a machine there was no opportunity for airline staff to check his visa status so this had to be done later, hence the call up to the desk. Even though entitled to VOA, this requires an empty passport page and also an onward ticket within 30 days which could only be ascertained by a physical check.

Failure to do any of these checks could mean the airline is liable for returning him back to Thailand and maybe even punished with fines, so it's perfectly understandable why they do it.

Without knowing what the "stranger questions" were we can only surmise, but it could just be a way of checking whether the traveller's responses indicated any signs they may not be completely above board. A regular approach in such circumstances.

We don't know whether the other passengers from Pakistan were in the same position or delayed for any other of a myriad of reasons, so in summary, no, it's no indication of prejudice and appears to be just staff doing their job.
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Old Mar 20, 19, 5:54 am
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Perhaps the most critical part of the post is this:

I had purchased a one-way ticket of Bangkok Airways Flight PG 905 and a one-way return ticket from Thai Airways Flight TG 585.
Without question this would throw up all sorts of immigration red flags because all Bangkok Airways would see in their system was a single flight ticket and no return date. It's highly unlikely there's any discrimination here - this is absolutely standard procedure for airlines across the world. The OP's contact is barking up the wrong tree here.
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Old Mar 21, 19, 3:47 am
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Originally Posted by Oneworld787 View Post
And why would the airline staff make up a story about a “country watch list”?
Maybe, given the Indian/Pakistan skirmishes of late, PG decided to increase scrutiny of passengers who hold Pakistani or Indian passports.


Originally Posted by Oneworld787 View Post
Are you all saying it’s not racial profiling even if only Pakistani people were stopped, rather than other nationals?
Don't know 'bout any other posters, but that's what I'M saying. A few questions. Do you know that it was only Pakistanis? Was it people suspected of being of Pakistani descent, or people who hold Pakistani passports? If it was people suspected of being of Pakistani descent (i.e., people who look Pakistani, whatever that means), are you certain that it didn't also apply to Indians and Sri Lankans? I wouldn't bet on the ability of the average Thai to be able to tell those three nationalities apart. Pakistanis are not a race. In terms of sharing common physical racial characteristics (body and bone structure, skin tone, and the like), they're more or less indistinguishable from Indians, Sri Lankans, and, to a lesser extent, Afghans.

I'm guessing that OP doesn't travel as much as many others here, because, as pointed out upthread, it's not uncommon to be asked to show a visa and/or return ticket. I, a white guy, am occasionally asked for that when checking in on a one-way ticket BOS-BKK, Also, keep in mind that racial, shall we say, awareness, isn't uncommon in Thailand. I have walked by bars with handwritten signs in the window saying, "No Indians." We can leave the "why" for another day in another forum.
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Old Mar 21, 19, 8:52 am
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I've booked separate inbound-outbound tickets before when I do open-jaw and fill in a leg on a LCC. I've been asked questions and required to show onward visa clearance.

I've also checked in using automated kiosk/phone for a domestic-international itinierary, and then called up to the counter at the gate because the airline needed to check my passport. It's not a commentary on my nation of origin.



My personal opinion, based on what the OP provided, is that the OP's acquaintance was not aware of the necessity for follow-up questions given his travel arrangements and felt hostile toward airline personnel, and then the situation escalated.
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Old Mar 21, 19, 6:01 pm
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One way ticket is the red flag for me.
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