The Russian airline allegedly threatened Asian-American passengers with deportation.
The Russian carrier Aeroflot allegedly told a group of five Asian-American US citizens that they could be “deported” back to Delhi after a connecting flight from Moscow to New York was cancelled, The Independent newspaper reports.
The group have taken evidence of the apparent racial discrimination to the US courts, filing a complaint against the airline.
Aeroflot staff in Moscow warned the US citizens of south Asian descent that if they refused to board a flight back to India they would be forcibly deported.
The Americans were travelling from Delhi to the US on January 7 but became stranded during a stopover in Moscow when their flight to JFK was cancelled due to snow in New York.
There were no seats on alternative flights, the airline told them, adding that they would not be given accommodation in the Russian capital. They were also denied transit visas, meaning they had to leave the country within 24 hours.
Yet the airline is alleged to have provided connections to the US to white Americans who had been on the same flight.
The passengers filmed an Aeroflot worker warning the group “they will be deported” if they fail to leave Russia within 23 hours, before slamming one of their US passports on the counter.
The group called the US embassy in Moscow, which said “it would be illegal for Aeroflot to deport United States citizens to third countries against their will”, the complaint reads.
But the passengers opted to board the return flight to India, “fearing for their safety and feeling that they had no other choice after Aeroflot’s repeated threats”.
One of the group later wrote on Facebook: “I have lost a week of work (I will not be allowed to vacation this year) and faced tremendous mental stress. I have been flying for over 17+ years and never ever been harassed or treated this way.”
Aeroflot told The Independent: “We clearly fell short of our customary high standards of service in this incident, which occurred more than two months ago, and indeed we contacted the passengers immediately afterwards to offer our apologies. However, our thorough internal investigation established that this was not a case of discrimination based on appearance, and we do not accept this characterisation in the complaint.”