Scandinavian Airlines Tried To Deny My Friend Boarding, Ignore Rules

Scandinavian Airlines Tried To Deny My Friend Boarding, Ignore Rules

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Yesterday I flew flew Scandinavian Airlines’ Airbus A350 business class from Copenhagen to Miami, and wanted to share a rather bizarre situation that unfolded, whereby my friend was almost incorrectly denied boarding (Ford went home from our Oman trip on a more direct and comfortable routing, while I met up with an avgeek friend for a bit more adventurous of a return).

I understand travel restrictions are complicated nowadays, but I’d expect an airline to do better…

Why SAS claimed my friend couldn’t fly to the United States

While we were checking in for our SAS flight at Copenhagen Airport, we were asked many of the standard questions you get asked on international flights, like whether we packed our own bags, if anyone asked us to take anything for them, etc.

But then there were also some coronavirus related questions, including whether we had been in any countries in Southern Africa in the past 14 days. My friend isn’t American and had been in South Africa around a week ago, so he answered honestly that he had.

At that point he was informed he wouldn’t be able to take the flight due to the US travel ban. There’s only one slight problem — yes, the US had a South Africa travel ban for a brief period in late 2021 when omicron was raging, but that ban was eliminated on December 31, 2021.

We showed the check-in agent the official White House proclamation stating that the ban was over, we showed him the IATA Timatic page showing that this requirement no longer exists, and we even showed him SAS’ own online travel center, which also says no such requirement exists.

At this point the check-in agent turned around his computer screen toward us, and showed us the document he was reading off of. He wasn’t lying — it was a PDF from the airline, and it clearly stated that if a non-American answered “yes” to any of the questions (including having been in South Africa in the past 14 days), they should be denied boarding.

We asked if this document was frequently updated, and he stated that it’s constantly updated. We were at a standstill — he explained there was nothing he could do, but that the “documents team” would be arriving at the airport in around 30 minutes, and could make a decision about the situation.

SAS tried to deny my friend boarding in Copenhagen

Surely the “documents team” will fix this!

I don’t know what the “documents team” is, but I figured they’d set this agent straight, right? After all, they presumably have one job, which is to understand documents.

After an extended wait (30+ minutes), my friend was called back to the check-in counter. The same agent informed him that he had spoken with the documents team. They were going to make a “one time exception” for him, but they urged him to not show his passport to US authorities that contained his stamp from South Africa (he has passports from two countries). So by their logic, they were basically encouraging him to violate travel restrictions and hide his travels from the US government.

To me this is so ridiculous, which is why I feel like I need to write about this:

  • It’s one thing if the staff acknowledged a mistake was made, which would be totally fair
  • But instead they just made a “one time exception,” which makes me believe that absolutely nothing will be done to fix this, and it also makes me wonder how many people have been incorrectly denied boarding by SAS
  • The fact that SAS is trying to enforce rules that haven’t been in effect for two months is kind of concerning, especially if the airline allegedly has a “documents team”

If a global airline can’t even update major travel restrictions two months after they’re dropped, how are individuals supposed to make sense of things?

In the end my friend was able to take the SAS flight

Bottom line

A global airline tried to deny my friend boarding based on travel restrictions that haven’t existed for two months. Of course rules are complicated and mistakes happen, but what I find troubling is that this was an official SAS document, and that no matter how much proof was presented to the contrary, the airline insisted he wasn’t allowed to travel.

In the end a “one time exception” was granted, where the airline essentially suggested he hide his travel history from the US government (by not showing his passport with the South African stamp).

I want to be clear — I’m not blaming the frontline employee who was just trying to enforce the guidance given by the company. I’m blaming whatever party is telling staff to enforce these travel restrictions that no longer exist.

What do you make of this situation? How would you have handled this?

Conversations (62)
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  1. Matrix.RX1 Guest

    in SIN, check in agents (not SQ) are personally liable for wrongly applied COVID travel procedures.

  2. Anthony Guest

    It is not the first time SAS agents have same type of behavior. I had a flight from Oslo to SF a while back. I hold a United Club membership which allows members club benefits on Star Alliance airline clubs when departing on same day on the airline. The club agent would not give me admittance even after showing them documents on the web pages. Again, he denys the benefit exists. After calling supervisor, he...

    It is not the first time SAS agents have same type of behavior. I had a flight from Oslo to SF a while back. I hold a United Club membership which allows members club benefits on Star Alliance airline clubs when departing on same day on the airline. The club agent would not give me admittance even after showing them documents on the web pages. Again, he denys the benefit exists. After calling supervisor, he said he would give me "one time exception" to use the club and never admitted any mistakes being made. May be this is company culture..... All Scandinavians we met are very friendly and courteous. That SAS experience is the exception.

  3. Christina g Guest

    Sas is a horrible airline. I had to threaten legal action to get a voucher on a ticket I couldn't use because of covid even though the ticket was refundable. Do not fly with this airline

  4. Martin Guest

    Now is this a extreme case cause the rules changed 3 months ago and the Supervisors/Agents should have been informed of the change, but I urge people not to assume anything with important rules like this. It takes a while for the airlines to send the information down to the agents. Everyone is tip-toeing around the rules that, frankly has been changing every day.

    And as many of the readers here is in the...

    Now is this a extreme case cause the rules changed 3 months ago and the Supervisors/Agents should have been informed of the change, but I urge people not to assume anything with important rules like this. It takes a while for the airlines to send the information down to the agents. Everyone is tip-toeing around the rules that, frankly has been changing every day.

    And as many of the readers here is in the aviation community or has a special intrest I shouldn’t have to explain all the diverts, INAD’s (Inadmissible passenger) there has been since the beginning of the covid pandemic.

    The airlines don’t have money for stuff like that anymore they are barely staying afloat.

    Regard’s
    A handling agent for an independent company in Scandinavia (Not CPH)

  5. Jerry Briggs Guest

    Why two passports?
    Is your friend some kind of secret agent?
    Does he marry multiple wives, worship more than one God?
    I'd be suspicious of anyone who declares for separate countries.

    1. Pe Guest

      It's common to have multiple passports. I know many Hong Kongers have three passports: HK, Canada and UK BNO.

    2. Thomas Guest

      I have multiple passports from my country as one is almost constantly at an embassy to get a visa. It can also be annoying to enter israel with some stamps. or the US with some visas/stamps...

  6. Chocolate Factory Guest

    SAS is Europe’s worst airline. They have always been OK to fly, but their customer service has always been a mess. To give one example: Their social media team is completely incompetent and has zero agency - and they’re rude on top of it. I once asked them if *A Gold members would get a free checked bag on a “light” (basic economy) fare and they told me to contact the airline I have status...

    SAS is Europe’s worst airline. They have always been OK to fly, but their customer service has always been a mess. To give one example: Their social media team is completely incompetent and has zero agency - and they’re rude on top of it. I once asked them if *A Gold members would get a free checked bag on a “light” (basic economy) fare and they told me to contact the airline I have status with. I could go on and on, there are so many examples. SAS has been on the brink of bankruptcy for a long, long time. I really wish they would just let them go out of business, so they could start over. Unfortunately that won’t happen as the Swedish and Danish governments are still major shareholders (Norway sold its shares several years ago).

  7. dwondermeant Guest

    This stuff makes me scared to travel abroad and I haven since late 2019

  8. iamhere Guest

    Agree with the main comment, you need to recognize that order. The check in agents either (a) work for the airport or (b) work for the airline but in either situation are low end and have no decision making power. Their job means something very much for them and possibly their family. They could get in a lot of trouble and or lose their job over making a decision they do not have the authority...

    Agree with the main comment, you need to recognize that order. The check in agents either (a) work for the airport or (b) work for the airline but in either situation are low end and have no decision making power. Their job means something very much for them and possibly their family. They could get in a lot of trouble and or lose their job over making a decision they do not have the authority to do. The fact that the agent was willing to get the team involved was good rather than just denying the passenger. The higher up decision makers would make the decision. I also do not suppose that that many Americans had this issue and I think as he was nationals of more than one place this was an added factor.

    Their advice regarding two nationalities is not wrong. It may have not been appropriate for them to advise this professionally to the passenger, but keep in mind people do this ALL of the time. Consider when there was a travel ban to Europe, those with both an American and European passport used whichever passport was convenient and gave them the least amount of issues. Consider Americans that travel to what the American government considers some somewhat controversial places on another passport.

  9. Albert Guest

    Typically people do not like to admit fault so they use the one-time exception

  10. Bob Guest

    "one time exception" seems to be the norm now for the company involved to not acknowledge any errors on their part. Guessing it's what lawyers instruct. I can't tell you how many 1 time exceptions the cable company has given me. In a way it's an easy end of argument for most people who understands what it means.

    In this situation I would not criticize the agent. They are require to follow what the computer...

    "one time exception" seems to be the norm now for the company involved to not acknowledge any errors on their part. Guessing it's what lawyers instruct. I can't tell you how many 1 time exceptions the cable company has given me. In a way it's an easy end of argument for most people who understands what it means.

    In this situation I would not criticize the agent. They are require to follow what the computer tells them. I can almost guarantee the pdf document is not being updated. Anything pdf related tells me there are some onerous manual process involved and there is probably a bug by someone's excel or lame automated email process that prevented the info from converting to pdf.

  11. Alan Gold

    Why is there a vaccination requirement? It does nothing to stop transmission. Even requiring an antigen test is pointless as false negatives are common. The US needs to eliminate all restrictions and join Iceland and Israel.

    1. Bob Guest

      If the people in the USA behaved as well as those in Iceland and Israel sure. But there are way too many whiney anti vax babies in this country.

  12. D3kingg Guest

    Who’s your friend ? Non stop Dan ? You bloggers are a closely tight knit group like impressionism art sales , billionaires , and the auctioneers at Sotheby’s and Lloyd’s. Everyone knows everyone.

  13. John Guest

    "One time exception" is usually code for - You're right and we're wrong, but we don't want to admit it to you.

  14. Jack Guest

    I was told by Qatar airways on Monday that I still needed a PCR test to fly into UAE which is no longer true for vaccinated people.

    The governments expecting the airlines to enforce these ever changing rules is the real problem

  15. WishMaker New Member

    Hi Lucky,
    By chance, did you or your friend twitted to SAS on the issue ?
    I have been told that such channel works good for these type of situations, in case it could help someone.
    Happy travels.

  16. CericRushmore Guest

    The testing requirements are just too complicated and change on the whim and vary by country and airline . At this point, if a country wants tourists/non-citizens to travel there, testing should not be required. Any place that is accepting tourists already has community spread, so the testing doesn't really do anything.

  17. Daniel from Finland Guest

    SAS is among the smuggest airlines out there, so I'm not at all surprised.

    The worst thing about this pandemic is not the travel rules per se, it's the agents who don't know how to enforce them. "One time exception"? OMG.

  18. Andy Diamond

    I think we will have to live with that for some time, given how often the rules have changed and are still changing. I also almost have been denied boarding recently in the US, flying to Ecuador which requires vaccination. I am triple vaccinated, according to my certificate with Biontech Comirnaty, which is how this vaccine is marketed in Europe. In the US, it is apparently marketed as Pfizer Comirnaty. Obviously, we all know that...

    I think we will have to live with that for some time, given how often the rules have changed and are still changing. I also almost have been denied boarding recently in the US, flying to Ecuador which requires vaccination. I am triple vaccinated, according to my certificate with Biontech Comirnaty, which is how this vaccine is marketed in Europe. In the US, it is apparently marketed as Pfizer Comirnaty. Obviously, we all know that is is exactly the same product, in fact produced and distributed by a joint venture of Biontech and Pfizer. But the list of the check-in staff only said Pfizer and my certificate only Biontech. It took quite a bit to convice her that it's the same. Upon arrival in Quito, I had no issues.

  19. Icarus Guest

    Don’t always blame the airline. Governments changing rules all the time and there’s not much time to investigate further depending on the check in deadline. Too much pressure has been imposed on airline staff, expecting them to be immigration experts as each customer that approaches them is different and there are so many exceptions. Sometimes portals such as iata, timatic, Sherpa and traveldoc, are not always aligned and updated at different times. Staff , especially...

    Don’t always blame the airline. Governments changing rules all the time and there’s not much time to investigate further depending on the check in deadline. Too much pressure has been imposed on airline staff, expecting them to be immigration experts as each customer that approaches them is different and there are so many exceptions. Sometimes portals such as iata, timatic, Sherpa and traveldoc, are not always aligned and updated at different times. Staff , especially outsourced, will most likely trust what they have rather than third party info. Stressful for everyone

  20. joe Guest

    and that is exactly why I do not want to fly right now. It is not the rules and regulations, it is more the persons who implement and control them. If you had such of those who do not know or insist of knowing it better or faking it that know they are but in reality they are But in order not to lose their face, they will make an exception and tell you lies.

  21. Saibal Guest

    Back in Dec 2021, I flew from JFK-CCU, but I had JFK-HND-BKK in one ticket, and BKK-DXB-CCU in another ticket. the JAL check-in agent at JFK denied me boarding to BKK as I do not have a Thai Pass. I told them repeatedly that we do not need Thai pass if I am staying on air side. I showed them the Thai consulate declaration page on my phone. He didn't believe me. I asked him...

    Back in Dec 2021, I flew from JFK-CCU, but I had JFK-HND-BKK in one ticket, and BKK-DXB-CCU in another ticket. the JAL check-in agent at JFK denied me boarding to BKK as I do not have a Thai Pass. I told them repeatedly that we do not need Thai pass if I am staying on air side. I showed them the Thai consulate declaration page on my phone. He didn't believe me. I asked him to call Thai consulate at NYC and he did. At the end consulate told him the same thing. I was lucky that it was during business hours and consulate was open. I don't know what would have happened if my flight was late night or so. I finally boarded but lost precious 1 hr. of chilling time at lounge :-(

    1. Icarus Guest

      Correct if you had two separate tickets with different airlines. As far as JL was concerned your final destination was Bangkok. Many people also buy separate tickets with no intention of using them to try and circumvent regulations. You should therefore have had valid documents enter Thailand. If you had baggage JL would not have to through check it especially if they had no access to your emirates booking. And what happens of the flight to Bangkok was delayed?

  22. Raj Guest

    The, "ok, but next time..." gang. There will never be a next time. They just want to reinforce that they were in power at that moment, and you were not.

    1. David Diamond

      I've always answered "Next time isn't your concern".

  23. guisun Gold

    Ben criticized the airline and the commenters should also criticize the airline, and not the agent. Think about for a minute, if you are the lowly agent that has a paper from the "top" saying to deny boarding. Would go against the published order from your company even though it is outdated? I'm pretty sure you rather wait for the word or an updated paper from the top.

    1. Nick Guest

      It says something about the problem solving skills of the individual and the communication of the company.

    2. David Diamond

      Depends? If all official documentation (from both my own airline, TIMATIC and the government in question) contradict one single piece of document, then yes, I'd go against the published "order", because there are now 2 published orders from my company that contradict each other.

  24. rjb Guest

    But was he wearing his Hello Kitty mask?

  25. Donna Diamond

    Back in October I was told by an AAgent that 14 people had “timed out” on their negative COVID tests and were denied boarding in Rome for DFW. I didn’t get the details but I can tell you that my documents have been thoroughly and constantly scrutinized throughout the entire pandemic. I read the fine print and review all consulate websites, going both ways, a week before my outgoing or incoming flights. I’m hoping CDC...

    Back in October I was told by an AAgent that 14 people had “timed out” on their negative COVID tests and were denied boarding in Rome for DFW. I didn’t get the details but I can tell you that my documents have been thoroughly and constantly scrutinized throughout the entire pandemic. I read the fine print and review all consulate websites, going both ways, a week before my outgoing or incoming flights. I’m hoping CDC will lift its testing requirement for vaccinated Americans soon. It is ridiculous at this point.

  26. miamiorbust Guest

    Sad to see TPG2 writing clickbait articles. As others have mentioned, checklist the agent was given access to was incorrect. This happens at every company. The problem was corrected and if the language used by the agent was odd and a little cryptic, well, is that much different than speaking with most AA agents at LGA? Is anyone really going to avoid travel to Denmark based on this silliness? Danes can be a little eccentric....

    Sad to see TPG2 writing clickbait articles. As others have mentioned, checklist the agent was given access to was incorrect. This happens at every company. The problem was corrected and if the language used by the agent was odd and a little cryptic, well, is that much different than speaking with most AA agents at LGA? Is anyone really going to avoid travel to Denmark based on this silliness? Danes can be a little eccentric. That's part of why we love (most) of them. This is a complete non-story that further cheapens the blog's brand.

    1. RCB Guest

      The problem was not corrected, this issue will continue to impact others who don't know their rights and are afraid to speak up, bringing this to the attention of the public, especially since SAS refused to fix it, is the prudent thing to do and a very important warning for us travelers.

    2. Leigh Gold

      I think your comment "further cheapens the blog's brand" is the most revealing thing you wrote and shows your true motivations.

      It's a legitimate travel story, and a "heads up" for travelers to be aware of ongoing challenges regarding international travel, and how to be prepared as best possible. I spent most of 2021 traveling international across a few continents, and it is indeed important to bear this anecdotal advice/information in mind as planning your...

      I think your comment "further cheapens the blog's brand" is the most revealing thing you wrote and shows your true motivations.

      It's a legitimate travel story, and a "heads up" for travelers to be aware of ongoing challenges regarding international travel, and how to be prepared as best possible. I spent most of 2021 traveling international across a few continents, and it is indeed important to bear this anecdotal advice/information in mind as planning your journeys.

      And the problem wasn't really "corrected" if the airline advised the pax to try and circumvent what they (incorrectly) thought were the rules.

      Also, where do you see any implied advice to avoid travel to Denmark? The information is about SAS.

    3. Mh Diamond

      It's actually very relevant demonstrating the issues that can arise. And being aware means you can prepare better for such possible issues.

      Not everything is sunshine and light and it's odd that you don't get that.

  27. JBM Guest

    In the early days of the pandemic, I had a flight scheduled with Air Canada to Hong Kong. I called to cancel the flight because Air Canada had offered a travel waiver for all flights to China. Per their wording, not “mainland China” or “China excluding Hong Kong” but “all flights to China”. They insisted on the phone that Hong Kong is not part of China and I didn’t qualify for the waiver. Ultimately I...

    In the early days of the pandemic, I had a flight scheduled with Air Canada to Hong Kong. I called to cancel the flight because Air Canada had offered a travel waiver for all flights to China. Per their wording, not “mainland China” or “China excluding Hong Kong” but “all flights to China”. They insisted on the phone that Hong Kong is not part of China and I didn’t qualify for the waiver. Ultimately I was refunded not because of that stance but because my connection to Toronto was cancelled. You’re absolutely right that words matter. I’m sure their tone would be different if a Chinese government official heard their opinion on whether Hong Kong is a part of China.

  28. BW Guest

    Had a ridiculous denied boarding experience with JAL in BKK before Covid time. BKK-NRT-YVR-DEN route and I had US green card. The JAL agent insisted I was supposed to have a visa to go to YVR... and DEN. I already did a research and told her that I didn't have to go landside at YVR to transfer so I didn't need a visa. And DEN.....I HAD A US GREEN CARD. She said, "that's not a...

    Had a ridiculous denied boarding experience with JAL in BKK before Covid time. BKK-NRT-YVR-DEN route and I had US green card. The JAL agent insisted I was supposed to have a visa to go to YVR... and DEN. I already did a research and told her that I didn't have to go landside at YVR to transfer so I didn't need a visa. And DEN.....I HAD A US GREEN CARD. She said, "that's not a visa"......I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at that. After 1 hour of arguing and waiting, the manager (I guess) told me I can use green card to enter US (No, s***) and let me go on the ground that I apply for Canadian visa en route and sign a waiver saying they're not responsible if Canada refuse me the transfer to DEN. They made me question my sanity and I was so worried that I tried getting a visa. Once I get to YVR, care to guess what I didn't need to transfer to DEN without going landside and holding a US green card?.....A F****** VISA! Luckily, even though I tried repeatedly to get the visa, it never went through or I would've lost money on something that I didn't need.

    1. miamiorbust Guest

      I loved this story. In the history of humanity has anyone successfully argued against a stated policy from a Japanese company? Have watched countless people try and fail. I even tried once when I clearly had facts on my side. "It was not possible". Failed. Now I just nod and agree when interacting with Japanese companies. It does typically workout eventually but within a structure where company policies are enforced.

    2. Icarus Guest

      You would need an eTA to travel to/via Canada

  29. Mayra Bazavilvazo Guest

    My family and I (party of 5 with 3 kids under 8) flew Lufthansa LAX to DXB, connecting in Frankfurt. We were kicked off the flight in Frankfurt because the third party operator Lufthansa hires to verify Covid tests misread our paperwork. He couldn’t do the time change math appropriately. The same covid test that Lufthansa allowed us to board with in LAX. What’s more when I we asked the agent for his name, he...

    My family and I (party of 5 with 3 kids under 8) flew Lufthansa LAX to DXB, connecting in Frankfurt. We were kicked off the flight in Frankfurt because the third party operator Lufthansa hires to verify Covid tests misread our paperwork. He couldn’t do the time change math appropriately. The same covid test that Lufthansa allowed us to board with in LAX. What’s more when I we asked the agent for his name, he called the police on us, saying we were not cooperating and pulling our mask down to show our faces! It was insane! After 12 hours of trying the speak to someone and make our case, Lufthansa agents finally realized they were wrong, apologized, and agreed to reimburse our expenses (hotel night, new Covid tests, etc). Fast forward 6 months later and we’re still trying to get reimbursed. These airlines need to be held accountable! It’s ridiculous!

    1. RCB Guest

      File a complaint with the US Department of Transportation, you'll get your money. I had a refund due from Vietnam Airlines that they just wouldn't process and weren't responding to inquiries about, and the flight was not in DOT's purview at all, but I filed a complaint anyways and had my refund in a week, because no airline wants to be on the bad side of DOT. Stop arguing with Lufthansa and just go directly to DOT.

    2. Omar Guest

      This used to work but they are now so bogged down with complaints you'll be lucky if you get a response.

  30. Seat 14A Guest

    In May 21 I was flying to BER through LHR. Got off my AA flight and went to board BA to BER. I was denied boarding because BA had 2 week old document saying US citizens could not enter Germany. I showed them the current documents and websites from Germany allowing US citizens in. Their response was it didn't matter what Germany said they were sticking to their outdated information.

  31. AJ Member

    Accountability is a major problem across all sectors these days. It's as if there is someone in charge but...no one in charge. The "documents team" is coming in 30 mins?? So what would've happened if your flight was an hour earlier? Your friend would've missed the flight? If the "documents team" has that kind of authority, work hours shouldn't be 9:01a-4:59p (with an hour lunch). Who's in charge??

  32. pstm91 Diamond

    This is the biggest issue with international travel right now and it doesn't matter what class you are flying in. Gate agents checking you in simply do not know the protocols (and that's not their fault, they would have to memorize dozens of countries COVID protocols, which are constantly changing). They rely on a PDF/packet/email that tells them what the requirements are, and in my experience these are FREQUENTLY incorrect. Having flown a variety of...

    This is the biggest issue with international travel right now and it doesn't matter what class you are flying in. Gate agents checking you in simply do not know the protocols (and that's not their fault, they would have to memorize dozens of countries COVID protocols, which are constantly changing). They rely on a PDF/packet/email that tells them what the requirements are, and in my experience these are FREQUENTLY incorrect. Having flown a variety of airlines over the past several months, no one airline is better at this than others, unfortunately. Some have websites that are much clearer than others (Emirates, Delta, etc.), but this does not really help at check-in unless you need to pull up the current requirements to correct a gate agent. It's very frustrating and something the airlines need to get straightened out ASAP.

    1. Petteri Guest

      Most airlines are using the IATA based system "Timatic" which in general is updated every day. However; There are entry requirements and then a lot of "does not appy to.." notes.
      Especially asian countries are using thousands of exemptions. They can be depended on the visa type (it that certain visa grants access during covid!), where you have been for the past 10/14 days, your vaccination status (2nd or 3rd), which country you hav...

      Most airlines are using the IATA based system "Timatic" which in general is updated every day. However; There are entry requirements and then a lot of "does not appy to.." notes.
      Especially asian countries are using thousands of exemptions. They can be depended on the visa type (it that certain visa grants access during covid!), where you have been for the past 10/14 days, your vaccination status (2nd or 3rd), which country you hav been transiting through and so on.
      If the check-in agent is unsure how to read/ deal with Timatic then she/he should ask a colleague or a supervisor. It is - if red carefully - an easy tool for airport staff.

  33. MP Guest

    This kind of stuff is really inexcusable, and almost happened to my wife when flying to a family wedding in Brazil in December 2019. US citizens no longer needed visas as of June 2019, and we had booked a flight to GRU via MEX. I still had a valid Brazil visa (now unnecessary) because my passport is a bit older, but my wife was on a newer passport and did not have one.

    One would...

    This kind of stuff is really inexcusable, and almost happened to my wife when flying to a family wedding in Brazil in December 2019. US citizens no longer needed visas as of June 2019, and we had booked a flight to GRU via MEX. I still had a valid Brazil visa (now unnecessary) because my passport is a bit older, but my wife was on a newer passport and did not have one.

    One would expect that flight to have a decent amount of Americans connecting (as ours did), but the gate agent was insistent that my wife needed a visa. After a harrowing 15 minutes or so where we also fruitlessly showed the evidence in English and Spanish on official government websites, a supervisor finally "did us a favor" and let her board. It really can't be incumbent on passengers to advocate for themselves like this.

  34. CF_Frost Member

    This was of course an error. Most airline staff is trained to err on the side of caution and deny boarding if there is the least amount of doubt. The potential penalties on the airline far outweigh the smaller inconvenience to a single passenger.

  35. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    I wonder how many "one time exceptions" are made in other circumstances?

    1. Ty Guest

      I watched the Qatar check in desk make a "one time exception" at ORD for a Jordanian man flying with either an out of date test or invalid vaccine. The Arabic speaking gate agent was singling out passengers that she wanted to "help". He had to go see his mother or some other sob story. It was rather offensive as someone who went to great lengths to ensure that my documents were all in order. She worked for Swissport.

  36. RCB Guest

    Wow, this is bad, like very very bad. Airlines are required to know this stuff, it's not optional, and I get that mistakes happen, especially now, but this is still not forgivable, especially when you showed them several forms of documentation that showed they were incorrect. This issue needs to be taken up directly with SAS to make sure they change it (though I suspect this blog post is enough to get that to happen).

  37. patrick Guest

    Hi Ben! Your blog's great and almost always of interest to me.
    One completely off the wall question for you... Why do you always wrap it with with "bottom line"? I know it's a summary of what was just said but for me, it's really redundant.
    Just a thought.
    Still love it either way! :-)

    1. RCB Guest

      Yes he does, every post has this (except maybe trip reviews, I'm not sure on that one), because sometimes these articles are pretty technical things and a concise summary at the bottom helps all of us skim articles to see if it's something we need to look closer at.

  38. Larry Guest

    My wife was almost denied boarding from an SAS agent in CPH for an equally wrong reason. She presented a COVID test result that was about 25 hours old, which is perfectly acceptable since US rules clearly state one calendar day not 24 hours. Same thing, she tries to show agent the correct rules online, and she refused to even look at them. Wife had to run and get second test at the airport. SAS seems to have some misinformed and bullheaded agents.

    1. miamiorbust Guest

      Another way to look at the situation might have been to have empathy for the airline employee trying to resolve conflicting information. When forced to choose between individual considerations (getting a specific passenger home efficiently) and coming to consensus with other people employed by the same company, in many places the need for consensus may be prioritized. Someone that is bullheaded in your eyes may be seen as respectful of their co-workers and corporate policies....

      Another way to look at the situation might have been to have empathy for the airline employee trying to resolve conflicting information. When forced to choose between individual considerations (getting a specific passenger home efficiently) and coming to consensus with other people employed by the same company, in many places the need for consensus may be prioritized. Someone that is bullheaded in your eyes may be seen as respectful of their co-workers and corporate policies. In your example and most others provided, the passenger was allowed to board. Hard for me to understand your outrage. Seems many of complaints amount to a view that the airline employee is either stupid or less important than you. Kinda textbook ugly American behavior (even if you're not American). Try empathy. It'll likely make travel more enjoyable.

    2. Never In Doubt Guest

      This is excusing error/incompetence by someone(s) at the airline (given facts presented above).

      What compels you do to that?

    3. DenB Diamond

      I understand this argument, fully. And I categorically reject it. My reason: SAS ticketed the passenger under Conditions of Carriage of which the airline is aware, or ought to be. The passenger is entitled (correct word) to carriage to Miami, subject to SAS' rules and government regulations. It's entirely on SAS to train staff to know what TIMATIC is, to understand English well enough to use TIMATIC and approve/deny a passenger based upon the text...

      I understand this argument, fully. And I categorically reject it. My reason: SAS ticketed the passenger under Conditions of Carriage of which the airline is aware, or ought to be. The passenger is entitled (correct word) to carriage to Miami, subject to SAS' rules and government regulations. It's entirely on SAS to train staff to know what TIMATIC is, to understand English well enough to use TIMATIC and approve/deny a passenger based upon the text therein. If front-line staff are too swamped to learn that much, or too uninformed to handle exceptions, SAS has a responsibility to have a competent "docs team" available at all times, not just "ugly European" bankers' hours. This has nothing to do with "ugly" entitled people. This is "ugly" behaviour by people abusing their power and then pretending they're being helpful and expecting gratitude. If you can't get this stuff right, don't sell tickets. Imagine the SAS agent had no pride and didn't find being wrong humiliating. What a wonderful world.

  39. Chris Guest

    Honestly no one can make sense of anything anymore it’s all a moving target. I can honestly say, from an airline employee perspective, no one has a clue and agents are setup to fail.

    1. Steve Diamond

      It is all a joke. Look at Hong Kong with worse cases and deaths right now per capita than at any point in the US. Its time to throw away all these restrictions and mandates. They didn't work then and they wont work going forward.

  40. bill Guest

    Would it have been better for him to be incorrectly IDB'd? Would amount to a very expensive bump?

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guisun Gold

Ben criticized the airline and the commenters should also criticize the airline, and not the agent. Think about for a minute, if you are the lowly agent that has a paper from the "top" saying to deny boarding. Would go against the published order from your company even though it is outdated? I'm pretty sure you rather wait for the word or an updated paper from the top.

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Bob Guest

If the people in the USA behaved as well as those in Iceland and Israel sure. But there are way too many whiney anti vax babies in this country.

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BW Guest

Had a ridiculous denied boarding experience with JAL in BKK before Covid time. BKK-NRT-YVR-DEN route and I had US green card. The JAL agent insisted I was supposed to have a visa to go to YVR... and DEN. I already did a research and told her that I didn't have to go landside at YVR to transfer so I didn't need a visa. And DEN.....I HAD A US GREEN CARD. She said, "that's not a visa"......I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at that. After 1 hour of arguing and waiting, the manager (I guess) told me I can use green card to enter US (No, s***) and let me go on the ground that I apply for Canadian visa en route and sign a waiver saying they're not responsible if Canada refuse me the transfer to DEN. They made me question my sanity and I was so worried that I tried getting a visa. Once I get to YVR, care to guess what I didn't need to transfer to DEN without going landside and holding a US green card?.....A F****** VISA! Luckily, even though I tried repeatedly to get the visa, it never went through or I would've lost money on something that I didn't need.

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