Ryanair apologises after Palestinian refugee denied access to board flight to Dublin

Iyad el-Baghdadi’s refugee convention document was rejected by Ryanair staff in Berlin

Iyad el-Baghdadi at Berlin Schonefeld airport after he was denied access to board his flight to Dublin. Photograph: Iyad el-Baghdadi

Iyad el-Baghdadi at Berlin Schonefeld airport after he was denied access to board his flight to Dublin. Photograph: Iyad el-Baghdadi

 

Ryanair has apologised to a Palestinian man who was not allowed board a flight to Dublin after a staff member refused to accept his refugee travel document as valid identification.

Iyad el-Baghdadi was scheduled to fly from Berlin Schönefeld airport on Wednesday morning to Dublin to attend a meeting before flying back to Norway on Thursday but was denied accesss to board.

Under the 1960 European Agreement on the abolition of visas for refugees, signed by Ireland in 1969, refugees travelling on a Geneva convention document do not require a visa to move within Europe when visiting a country for three months or less.

Mr el-Baghdadi had already checked into his flight when he approached the Ryanair desk to confirm his documents with a member of staff. He also offered a print out of a Department of Justice webpage stating that he did not require a visa to travel to Ireland.

Iyad el-Baghdadi at Berlin Schonefeld airport after he was denied access to board his flight to Dublin. Photograph: Iyad el-Baghdadi
Iyad el-Baghdadi at Berlin Schonefeld airport after he was denied access to board his flight to Dublin. Photograph: Iyad el-Baghdadi

“She looked at my documents and got very confused,” he told The Irish Times by phone from Berlin Schönefeld airport, adding that the staff member requested “an original copy” of the justice document he produced.

“How can you give the original of a website? If you work at a check-in desk you should know what a refugee travel document is. The correct question I should have been asked is ‘how long are you going to stay in Dublin?’ I was only supposed to be in Dublin for 24 hours.”

Mr el-Baghdadi asked to speak to the woman’s supervisor but says no one ever showed up. He believes the staff were “waiting for me to give up or leaving me to miss my flight. And that’s what eventually happened.”

Mr el-Baghdadi also turned to Twitter for support, tweeting that he had been denied boarding by Ryanair “because I am a refugee” and called on his 120,000 followers to “make some noise”.

About an hour later he received a response from Ryanair Twitter customer support saying they would “investigate immediately”.

He later received a call from Ryanair apologising for the mistake. “They’re putting me on the next flight at 6.15pm,” he said. “ They also mentioned compensation and said they would email me about it.”

In a statement, Ryanair said Mr el-Baghdadi had been incorrectly refused access to board and an error had been made by a staff member at the airport.

“This customer was denied boarding because of an effort made by our handling agent in Berlin. Ryanair has since made contact with the customer directly and he will travel with us later today. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.”