I’ve never heard a story quite like this one before! Apparently Aeroflot forced five Indian-Americans on a flight to Delhi, India, despite all five passengers having tickets to New York JFK and not actually being citizens of India. The group were connecting in Moscow on January 7th when their flight to JFK was canceled due to snow. Instead of placing them on the next New York bound flight (like many of the light skin passengers according to their complaint), they were given the option of flying to Delhi or being deported. Under Russian law, passengers can only remain in the country for 24 hours without visas and the cancelation would put them over that time. However, the five who have filed a racial discrimination complaint, claim that leniency was given to the other passengers on the canceled flight. They even attempted to get the US embassy involved:
“Although the officer on duty at the embassy repeatedly asked to speak with Aeroflot to correct the situation, Aeroflot employees refused to speak with him, instead reiterating their threat that the passengers would be deported and that if they did not return to India,” the complaint reads. “Aeroflot would ‘make matters worse’ for them — including through criminal deportation and heavy fines.”
The passengers eventually boarded the flight “fearing for their safety and feeling threatened”, only to find out upon arrival that there were no available Aeroflot flights to New York for more than a week. They ended up spending out-of-pocket for flights on Qatar and many missed work and school.
“I have lost a week of work (I will not be allowed to vacation this year) and faced tremendous mental stress. I have been flying for over 17+ years and never ever been harassed or treated this way.”
“Aeroflot’s behavior is appalling and beyond any justification,” Juvaria Khan, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates, the firm representing the passengers, told The Independent. “DOT must conduct a full and thorough investigation and hold Aeroflot accountable for its discriminatory actions and ensure that no other travelers endure this type of mistreatment.”
Aeroflot apologizes for the incident, but claims it was not discrimination:
“We clearly fell short of our customary high standards of service in this incident, which occurred more than two months ago, and indeed we contacted the passengers immediately afterwards to offer our apologies. However, our thorough internal investigation established that this was not a case of discrimination based on appearance, and we do not accept this characterization in the complaint.”