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In my last visit to an east European country with Ukraine Airlines (using 4 different flights - back and forth) they have asked me for my passport before boarding. I know this a regular procedure and all airlines asked for id or passport.

I did this trip with my wife (Caucasian look) and she always boarded before me. No one (3 out of 4 times) even opened her passport to check whether she is the same person on the ticket. But whenever I showed my ticket for the boarding, they took my passport and checked it very carefully (even giving my passport to the next employee) at the boarding desk. We both have EU-Passports from same country.

So I asked them why they haven't even opened the passport of the person (Caucasian look i.e. my wife) in front of me? No answer was given to me by them other than "Good flight, sir".

How can I deal with such kind of racism or generalizations (passports only checked if the person having not Caucasian look) by an airline/airport?

Edit: I think I am clear enough in my question that what I or someone can do to prevent any kind of discrimination - like gender discrimination, color discrimination, religious discrimination etc. or even any kind of generalisation from airlines employees - except writing a complaint to the airline and wait for their answer. So I don't know why few people think it is better to close this question without even answering it.

Edit: I have found the - U.S. Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD) - website on which one can also file a complaint against discriminating. Anyone know such sites in the EU?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Apr 28 at 9:42
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    Ukraine is not in the EU. – Douglas Held Apr 30 at 18:52
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    @DouglasHeld I know this but the UIA also operate in the EU and flight was from EU. – N Randhawa Apr 30 at 20:09
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First may I empathize with your position, as it is unfortunate that anybody should be treated in this way.

I think if you wish to deal with racism, you must take a different approach in your home country and in countries you visit.

For your home country, fight the racism by supporting the causes that you know to be right. Follow your own judgment as fas as the personal risks you are willing to take in order to make an impact that can satisfy you.

When you are traveling abroad, deal with the racism in a different way. Avoid it. Start by researching the experience of other people (who look or speak similarly to you), and avoid the countries or regions where you are likely to face the abuse.

As a visitor, you are never going to be able to make an impact to the other country's culture. There is hardly any means of "teaching them a lesson" that you will have available to you as a visitor.

But that being said, you can make a helpful impact by posting your experience online. For example, in Google Maps or Tripadvisor or some other forum where people such as you are likely to see the information and will be able to make wise travel choices.

Once the racism experiences become part of the public record, this can influence a country whose economy relies on tourism.

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Unfortunately, racial discrimination is an extremely widespread problem. Nonetheless, various channels do exist that are supposed to address issues like the one you describe:

  1. Business: Complain to the airline.

  2. Legal: This probably won't help in your case, because most legal channels give recourse only when you suffer specific damage. If you are improperly denied boarding, for example, you would at least be eligible for EU 261/2004 compensation. On the other hand, if you only suffer humiliation and aggravation from having your passport checked, it is unlikely for a legal challenge to succeed.

  3. Bureaucracy: Complain to the relevant regulatory agencies, including the local airport administration, the local or national consumer protection administration, and/or the national airline regulatory administration. You didn't mention which country, but here's an EU site for consumer complaint information.

  4. Political: If you face discrimination in your own country of citizenship, complain to your MP. You may be surprised that in many countries, MPs actually have staff to look into such issues, although of course your mileage may vary. If you face discrimination in another country, talk with your own country's embassy in that country. Bear in mind that embassies tend to be overworked, but if you are very polite yet determined, you might convince them to be concerned about it.
    It's likely that such political approaches will feel futile, but there is a possibility they could lead to new legislation or diplomatic discussions, which could be very influential.

  5. Publicity: Post your experience online, naming the details (airline and airport), and including your subsequent correspondence with the airline. Some people get more traction by posting on Twitter, or even more by posting a video showing egregious discrimination.
    (Be aware about possible legal issues if posting such a video, however, such as laws that forbid recording of certain airport procedures, or laws that protect the privacy of the employee who discriminated against you.)
  6. Advocacy organizations: There are many dozens of anti-racism advocacy organizations across Europe. Unfortunately, there are fewer in Eastern Europe. You would have to research specific organizations to identify whether they are relevant to your experience.
  • It seems that this case is, unfortunately, a very "minor" case and does have not much evidence (the employees could easily argue that they're doing it for another reason, i.e., the passport just doesn't "look right".) It's probably not worth the hassle in this case, but all of these are good to know if something more serious happens. – xuq01 Apr 28 at 22:38

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