Denied Boarding, but Should Not Have Been
LONDON -- Dear Mr Parker
I have addressed this letter to you because I feel that, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, you will be as concerned about my recent experience as I was.
I am a Silver Preferred Dividend Miles member, # ******* and US Lawful Permanent Resident, and I undertook an Envoy Class trip to the UK by US Airways, leaving the US on Thurs, July 26, 2007, with return flight booked for Weds, Aug 15, 2007.
On Weds, Aug 15, 2007, I arrived at US Airways check-in at Gatwick Airport, London, to check-in for my return flight to the US, 733 to Charlotte, NC, with onward connecting flight 4446 to Lynchburg, VA. My Flight Confirmation number was ******.
At pre-check-in screening, I presented my UK passport and my US Green Card to an ICTS employee named Jemma. I pointed out that my Green Card had expired and I produced the required I-797 Notice of Action (Receipt Notice) extending my Green Card for one year beyond its expiration. I had been assured by the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) prior to leaving the US that that receipt, coupled with my expired Green Card, is all that is needed to allow me to re-enter the US. Indeed, that I-797 states that, ‘Your conditional resident status is extended for a period of one year from date of expiration on your form I-551, conditional resident card (green card). During the one-year extension, you are authorized employment and travel.'
Jemma informed me that I would not be permitted to fly with an expired Green Card. I pointed to the above paragraph on my I-797 and explained what I had also been told by the US Citizenship & Immigration Service, and Jemma said she would call the US Embassy to confirm that.
She asked me to return to the US Airways service desk in 15 mins and, when I did so, she told me that she had called the Embassy and they had told her I could not fly.
A US Airways employee at the service desk then offered to call the Embassy and explain to them what other documents I had. She called them in my presence but failed to explain that I had my I-797 with me. She told me that the Embassy had said I could not travel, and that I would need to go to the US Embassy in London to request a Letter of Transportation.
My flight was cancelled and I was then booked on the same flight the next day, Aug 16, 2007. I had to book into a hotel and make my way 30 miles to the US Embassy in Central London.
On arrival at the Embassy, I was refused entry because I did not have an appointment. I pointed out that US Airways at Gatwick Airport had sent me, but was told by security that they had repeatedly told US Airways at Gatwick to stop sending people to the Embassy as they would not be admitted without an appointment.
When I asked at Embassy security how I could arrange an appointment, I was given the phone number of the US Embassy Appointment Line, and I called from a payphone opposite the Embassy.
The first available appointment was on Tues, Aug 21st, 2007, i.e. 6 days hence. That meant that I was effectively stranded, and I called my wife in the US to ask her to approach our Congressman's office for assistance.
My wife emailed the Embassy and in response to that email I was granted an appointment at the Embassy at 9am the next day, Thurs, Aug 16th, 2007. Because I had been booked onto flight 733 on Aug 16th, I again had to cancel my flight.
I attended at an interview at the Embassy with two officers from the Department for Homeland Security, who asked for my Green Card and any other documents. When I produced the I-797, i.e. the same document I had presented at Gatwick Airport the previous day, the officers asked me why US Airways had refused me permission to fly.
I told them that Jemma claimed to have spoken to the DHS at the Embassy, but the officers were adamant that no one had spoken to them. Further, they confirmed that my documents were perfectly adequate and acceptable for travel and that US Airways was incorrect in refusing me permission to fly.
They went on to say that US Airways had clearly not read the Carrier Guidelines issued by the DHS, or they would have known the documents were acceptable, and that US Airways routinely referred anyone with questionable documents to the Embassy, despite being repeatedly instructed not to do so, in order to avoid any possibility of incurring fines.
The officers agreed to issue a Letter of Transportation to avoid any further problems with US Airways and, because my documents were in order and I should not have been refused permission to travel, they even went so far as to waive the $165 fee normally charged for the letter.
I called US Airways that afternoon and rebooked for flight 733 the next day, Friday, Aug 17th, 2007, and attended at the US Airways check-in desk the next morning.
Jemma was again on duty, and asked whether I now had the proper documentation to allow me to fly. I explained that the documents I had presented previously were perfectly acceptable, according to the US Embassy, but I produced the newly-acquired Letter of Transportation anyway.
I asked Jemma for her last name, and told her that I intended to pursue the matter on my return to the US, but she refused to identify herself, and simply referred me to the US Airways service desk.
I went to the service desk and asked them for Jemma's last name, but the three US Airways employees on duty claimed not to know it, though they work with her daily. They told me that Jemma works for ICTS, not for US Airways, but when I pointed out that she was manning a US Airways desk, they agreed and confirmed that ICTS is employed by US Airways to vet passengers.
In summary, then, these are the salient points:
1) I was refused permission to fly because my documents were supposedly not in order, although they were in order, as confirmed by the DHS at the US Embassy, London
2) It would appear that Jemma did not call the Embassy, despite her claim to have done so.
3) I was sent to the US Embassy despite US Airways having been repeatedly instructed not to send refused passengers there without an appointment
4) I incurred extraordinary expenses, c.$2000, because of US Airways' error in refusing me permission to fly
5) On asking an ICTS/US Airways employee to identify herself, that employee, and her colleagues, declined to do so
Prior to me taking any further action, I would appreciate receiving your proposal for dealing with this frustrating and costly experience in a satisfactory manner.