Julian Bray aviation security expert writes: A family group said to comprise 11 children and 2 adult males, from Walthamstow London, England, has been 'denied boarding' a flight to the USA out of Gatwick. The incident will fill the newpapers, but is this unusual? The local MP chose to highlight the problem in The Guardian newspaper, a few days after the actual event, it's now caused a media storm, the group claim to have been singled out as Muslims.
But it now transpires one of the party was previously denied entry to Israel, and others allegedly had published some unwise remarks on social media, although this is strongly denied by the group.
Your country of origin or birth is apparently also a factor. One of the 2 males is said to be from Pakistan. And for reasons not made clear no adult females/ wives/mums are part of what has been termed by the media "a Muslim family."
Like anyone travelling to and hoping to be admitted to the USA they would be subjected to several forms of covert and public admissibility profiling. #
If any of some sixty different parameters ( all published ) are breached or simply not met, then any existing visa or entry consideration is immediately cancelled, withdrawn and declared null and void. No reason may be given. No matter how much the individual may have already paid out . And most travel insurance policies spell this out very clearly.
No valid travel documents, no insurance pay out. This is the gamble unwittingly encountered by any traveller to the USA.
The Norwegian airline is said to be 'not minded to return the contracted £9,000 worth of air travel, paid by the group, as it is not the airlines concern, but has always been the passengers individual responsibility to ensure the passport and any attached visa offered is valid AT THE POINT OF DEPARTURE, not at the airport airside final gate...
Had the airline flown the group to the USA, and then the passengers denied entry, the airline would have to return the group, at the airlines expense.
Mohammed Zahid Mahmood, from Walthamstow, eight members of his family, together with other children checked in on Tuesday for the Norwegian Airlines flight to Los Angeles.
They claim to have had previously obtained travel authorisation under the new electronic Visa programme. This replaces the old Visa waiver system which has served the USA and its visitors well for many decades, but clearly not supplied the US border staff with sufficient electronic data ready information.
The US authorities claim they admit after checks and visa restrictions around a million visitors a day.
The group claims they were denied boarding as an official in the USA based in Washington had telephoned or emailed the departure gate in Gatwick, to clarify the current visa status of the group.
Clearly passenger loading lists had been sent electronically by the airline to the USA, as a condition of carriage, these instantly are compared by computer to the 'denied boarding or visa 'status not clear' computer based filtering programs.
At the boarding gate Mr Mahmood said they were told they could not travel, but no reason given. As security issues are claimed to be involved no reason would be given. Its a case of your security profile does not fit you will lose out.
The family say their visas were approved more than a month ago and that they were travelling to see Mr Mahmood’s brother in Los Angeles.
‘”We checked in, there were no problems,” Mr Mahmood told the BBC. “Just before the final check we were singled out.
“Border control came and said ‘Can we have your passports?’. He asked us to distinguish between my brother’s children and my children.
“Then he came back and said, ‘I’m sorry you can’t board this flight. We received a call from Washington DC that we can’t allow this family to board the flight’.”
Mr Mahmood said he had educated his children “to live in this country peacefully” and had been invited to speak at local schools about Islamophobia.
He said he had once been detained for eight days at Tel Aviv airport.
“No-one is taking the blame. We are just going round in circles. It’s about £8,000-£9,000 we’ve spent on tickets.”
A spokesperson for Norwegian Airlines said: “We can confirm that a group of passengers were denied the right to board a flight from London Gatwick to Los Angeles yesterday at the request of US Homeland security. Norwegian fully complies with requests from the border controls of each country we serve.”
Clearly if anyone is paying out in advance, and holding a current visa. It is still not a guarantee that at the point of departure entry into the USA will be authorised...
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Aviation Expert, Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Expert, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 (ALL CODECS) e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 iPhone 0743 530 3145 www.aviationcomment.com Contrib. Account #104764 53 FEED: http://feeds.feedburner.com/BraysDuckhouseBlog