An Indian National has accused Turkish Airline of discriminating against him because he was travelling to Nigeria and because of his nationality.
The passenger (his name was not audible in the recording) who narrated his experience in an audio recording shared via messaging app, WhatsApp, claimed he was a Business Class passenger on board a Turkish Airline flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to Nigeria.
The passenger, who claimed the event happened on Thursday, August 17, 2017, explained that he had an eight-hour layover before his flight to Nigeria so he decided to use one of the sleeping suites reserved for Business Class to rest while waiting for his flight.
But he was shocked when an employee of the airline told him he could not use the sleeping suite due to his nationality and the destination he was headed.
“I’m sitting in Turkish Airline Business Class Lounge I have a layover here from 10:30 am to 6: 30 pm, that is over 8 hours. So, I went to see if there is a place where I could sleep,” he said.
“I go to the desk on the wall there is a notice saying: “Only for Business Class passengers”. I said fantastic, I’m a Business Class Passenger. And it said it for people who have layover of six hours and more and I said fantastic, I satisfied that also. I have a layover of six hours and more.
“I said to the lady who is there at the desk: Please, can I sleep? Where is the suit, where can I go and have some rest? She said No sir, where are you coming from? I said Mumbai, India and I am going to Nigeria.
“She said but then you can’t sleep. I said why not? She said that’s the rule. I said what rule?”
He said the lady at the desk told him that the airline has a policy that only allowed Business Class passengers who are nationals of mainly Western countries or passengers travelling to Western countries to use the sleeping suites.
“She showed me a list of countries. You have to be coming from them or going to them only then that Turkish Airline recognise that you need sleep.,” the passenger recounted.
“So, if you don’t go to those countries and you don’t come from those countries, and of course all European countries are part of that Washington, is part of that New York is part of that, and so on. Other than that, if you come from India and so forth and basically a non-white country it is assumed that you don’t need sleep.
“So here I’m sitting, even though I’m a Business Class passenger on Turkish Airline, Even though I have a long layover, I’m not allowed to sleep in the sleeping suite of the business class lounge. According to me because I’m not white. According to their rules because I’m from India and I’m going to Nigeria.
“I think this is something that should be brought to the notice of the highest authorities. Including the president and including the head of the Turkish Airline to say that on what basis do you discriminate on your customers and between your Business Class passengers.
“I’m absolutely certain that if this is how the Turkish Airline treats its passengers then this is my first and last time on Turkish Airline,” he said.
When contacted, a spokesperson for Turkish Airline at their Nigerian office, Tobi Isamodu, told Hope for Nigeria that the airline is aware of the complaint but added that the story narrated by the passenger was not true.
“About that, it is not true. we’ve gotten that voicemail several times and it has been sent to our head office in Istanbul and they are working on it. They are going to address it from Istanbul. He did that in Istanbul and it will be addressed in Istanbul,” she said.
A history of mistreating Nigerian passengers
Turkish Airline has been dogged by a string of complaints by its Nigerian passengers of mistreatment and poor handling of baggage leading to the damage or loss of passengers’ luggage.
In January 2016, following the intervention of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) the airline was forced to pay compensation to passengers on its Flight TK 624 from Istanbul to Abuja who were delayed for several hours. Half of the passengers’ luggage were also left in Istanbul.
In August, the Nigerian government sued the airline and some of its executives for alleged impunity and violation of the rights of some Nigerian passengers. A statement by the Consumer Protection Council said the government was compelled to sue the airline following its refusal to respond for a full situation report on the alleged shoddy treatment of its passengers on Flight 623.
“The accused persons were arraigned before the court for allegedly neglecting, without sufficient cause, to attend and testify before the CPC on the number of passengers aboard the Turkish Airlines Flight 623 from Istanbul to Abuja on the 25th and 31st of December, 2015, as well as the 9th of January, 2016, who were affected by its untimely delivery of baggage, thereby committing an offence punishable under section 18 of the CPC’s enabling law.
“The Federal Government also accused the airline and its two principal officers of violating the same section of the CPC Act by neglecting, without sufficient cause, to attend and testify before the Consumer Protection Council on the detailed steps taken by the airline to provide redress and compensation to passengers aboard its Flight 623 from Istanbul to Abuja on the said dates, who were affected by its untimely delivery of baggage,” the statement read.
In April, the airline was again accused of abandoning pupils of Glisten International College, Abuja, who had gone to the United States for a competition. The airline was said to have given each of the student’s $40 dollar each and made them sleep in near freezing condition at the airport after it failed to connect them from Istanbul to Abuja.