A relative of mine traveled to Spain with a Turkish passport from South America. She didn't knew she needed a visa for Spain and was allowed boarding by the airline.

Upon arrival she was held in a "detention room" uncommunicated for 24 hours (she was treated well by Spanish authorities though) until she was deported for failing to have the correct documents. As standard procedure she was assigned a lawyer who told her that airlines pay penalties when this happens.

My question is, can she request a refund for being allowed boarding despite being inadmissible?

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    Check the fine print for the ticket purchase. Almost certainly, it will say somewhere that having the appropriate documents is the passenger's responsibility. – Patricia Shanahan Jan 24 '20 at 17:16
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    @JordanBelf She cannot be compensated for being allowed boarding, as check-in staff are not liable to her in that regard. But, also don't let the airline charge her, which low-cost carriers often try to do. If they suddenly charge her card, she should dispute it with the card provider – Crazydre Jan 24 '20 at 18:06
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    @JordanBelf Like I said, no refund is possible, but she's not supposed to pay anything further. Nothing more, nothing less, but again Ryanair and WIZZ will routinely try and charge the passenger for their penalties, in which case, again, dispute it with the bank/card issuer. She may want to lock her card for unsecured transactions, as that may prevent them from charging her – Crazydre Jan 24 '20 at 18:53
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    It is not obvious that passengers have a right to a free seat for deportations. Such cases have been fought in German courts and the rulings are in favour of the airlines. They are allowed to claim fines and other costs related to the deportation (e.g. a new ticket) from the passenger. This is not only done by low-cost carriers. Lufthansa operates also with the same policy. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jan 24 '20 at 21:02
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    “5.10 When a person is found inadmissible and is returned to the aircraft operator for transport away from the territory of the State, the aircraft operator shall not be precluded from recovering from such person any transportation costs involved in his removal.“ un.org/sc/ctc/news/document/… – Moo Jan 24 '20 at 21:46

can she request a refund for being allowed boarding despite being inadmissible?

No. Eligibility for entry into the destination and any intermediate stops is solely and universally the responsibility of the traveller, and as such the airline carried out their contractual obligation to the traveller in transporting them to the destination and back again. The refusal of entry at the destination is not the responsibility of the airline.

It’s true that airlines have an obligation under ICAO rules to the destination state (either ultimate destination or transit stops) to not present ineligible travellers, which is why they often check documentation and eligibility before travel begins, but this obligation does not extend from the airline to the traveller. Airlines can receive fines from states for each ineligible traveller they present where suitable checks have not been carried out, but this infers no responsibility to the traveller at all.

As such, no refund is due - the airline carried out their part of the contract without issue.

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