Ryanair apologises after staff refuse to let legal refugee board

Ryanair has apologised after refusing to allow an activist travelling on refugee documents from Berlin to Dublin to board one of their planes.

A Ryanair plane is parked on the tarmac. Picture: Paul Faith/Getty Images
A Ryanair plane is parked on the tarmac. Picture: Paul Faith/Getty Images

Iyad el-Baghdadi, a writer critical of Arab dictatorships, is a stateless Palestinian by way of Kuwait and the UAE who now has refugee status in Norway.

He was not allowed to board Ryanair flight FR8557, scheduled to depart Berlin Schonefeld for Dublin at 11am today.

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Irish government rules make clear his travel documented would have been accepted for entry – but airline staff at the gate refused it anyway.

“They called and apologised and said they’ll put me on the next flight and compensate me for the denied boarding,” Mr Baghdadi said.

“They said their check-in staff looked at the documentation incorrectly and incorrectly denied me boarding.”

Ryanair said they “sincerely apologise” for the inconvenience.

Mr Baghdadi raised his refusal on Twitter to his 122,000 followers, many of whom called for the budget airline to act.

But he warned that his case calls attention to those of other refugees who don’t have the same platform.

“I won’t describe myself as ‘happy’ – but I’m moving on with my life,” he said.

“Just thinking about all the refugees who don’t get callbacks and don’t get apologies or thousands of retweets – ‘denied boarding’ would be the end of the story for them.”

It is not the first time Mr Baghdadi has encountered problems travelling.

“I once spent 26 days stranded in an airport after being expelled from my former country, the UAE,” he recounted on Twitter.

“Yes, I’m nervous around airports.

“But if we’re anything we’re resilient. Dictators didn’t break us, an airline certainly won’t.”

Mr Baghdadi said: “I’ve had one refugee’s travel doc or another my entire life, so yes, I do experience problems travelling. But not as much since I was granted asylum in Norway.”

Mr Baghdadi was deported from the United Arab Emirates in 2014 after tweeting about Egyptian activist Bassem Sabry, who had recently died.

As his grandfather had fled Jaffa in 1948 after the creation of Israel, neither he nor his father had gained citizenship and he had no home nation to be deported to.

He was flown to Malaysia, after an initial assumption that they would accept a Palestinian refugee, but was stuck in the airport outside passport control for weeks.

Malaysia eventually relented, but Mr Baghdadi ultimately moved to Norway, where he resumed his activism, defending the principles of the Arab Spring even after the reassertion of dictatorship in many countries.

Ryanair said: “This customer was denied boarding because of an error 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.”

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