South Asian Travelers File Discrimination Complaint in U.S. Against Aeroflot
The passengers landed in Moscow on Jan.7, 2018 and were allegedly discriminated against by Aeroflot employees who forced them to return to India.
Five South Asian Americans filed a complaint on March 22 with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) through their lawyers against alleged discrimination shown by Aeroflot Airlines during an incident in January 2018.
Marc Fernandes, Shahana Islam, Sabiha Islam, Bakiul Islam and Anshul Agrawal said in the complaint that they were “deported” to India despite being American citizens, based on the color of their skin. They have asked for an investigation by the DOT against the airline.
“Aeroflot staff steadfastly refused to allow American customers who were or who were perceived to be of South Asian descent to return to the United States, “deporting” them instead to India — all while providing customers on the same flight who were or who were perceived to be White Americans with accommodations and connecting flights to America,” the complaint said.
On Jan.7, 2018, the said passengers landed in Moscow, after a trip to India, from where they were supposed to catch their connecting flight to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. They were told that the flight was cancelled due to the adverse weather conditions.
The passengers of South Asian descent were later told that no seats were available on a later flight to New York and that Aeroflot’s partner airlines, which operate alternative routes to the United States through Europe, were already fully booked and also unavailable. “Aeroflot staff further informed the South Asian Travelers that they would not be provided with any accommodations while they remained stranded in Moscow’s airport,” the complaint said.
An Aeroflot representative, identified by his name tag as “Mikhail,” then told the South Asian travelers that the airlines would not give them transit visas and they could “go back to India” on a later flight or be forcibly “deported” to India by Russian officials within 24 hours.
The complainants told “Mikhail” about their American citizenship but he still told them that they would have to forfeit their Aeroflot tickets if they did not agree to be sent back to India.
Aeroflot representatives also refused to speak to the United States Embassy in Moscow, according to the complainants. The embassy advised them against being deported since it would have legal ramifications. So they complied and returned to India.
No Aeroflot representative was available in New Delhi to help them either and they were forced to book a flight on Qatar Airways.
Later, Agrawal said in a Facebook post: “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.”