13

Update: There has been no response from SWISS so far. We contacted their SWISS office in Moscow again, but the replies were elusive and indefinite. "It is up to check-in staff to decide".

At around midday I suddenly found out that Aeroflot opened a direct flight from Moscow to Prague tonight. As my relative became extremely nervous with all this uncertain situation with SWISS and I was worried about their health, I decided to book them to this flight instead. My relative is already aboard.

As this technically is no-show, I presume we will have to forfeit the fare and blacklist LH Group.


A relative of mine, a Russian national and resident, was recently issued a D-visa from the Czech Republic. While looking for transportation options for him from Moscow to Prague, we found a flight via Zürich with SWISS.

To ensure that this kind of transit through Switzerland is permitted, we consulted the FAQ page of the Swiss migration office. The English version of the page was somewhat vague as it was not clear if permission of transit pertained to holders of D-visas issued by other Schengen states, so we contacted the Moscow office of SWISS for an interpretation. The staff there renounced any authority on behalf of SWISS in this regard and directed us to the e-mail address of the Visa section of the Swiss Embassy in Moscow.

We complied with the instruction given to us by SWISS and contacted the said Visa section. The reply came promptly and was definitively positive. We were told that the legally-binding French and German versions of the same FAQ page explicitly mentioned D-visas issued by any Schengen state as documents enabling transit. We checked these versions and were satisfied that that was correct.

Thus, we established that this itinerary is permitted, and the ticket was purchased.

Despite all that, one day before departure (yesterday), my relative received an e-mail from SWISS containing the following statement:

Only following nationals are allowed to enter Switzerland, the Schengen area and the European Union from Russia: … Holders of a D-Visa issued only by Switzerland

As shown above, this statement is outright false and directly contradicts the information published on the official Web pages of the Swiss competent authorities. Moreover, as said above, SWISS had already renounced authority in this matter before, and had taken steps to get us informed that this transit is possible and lure us into buying the ticket.

My relative was terribly shocked. I sent a complaint through the SWISS Web site (took unproportionally long time as it takes systematic measures against complaints as it seems), but I am unsure if this will work.

Obviously, this is a clear case for a court, but legal way will take a lot of time, and family matters require my relative to travel as soon as possible. Is there anything else I could undertake to ensure that my relative is aboard tonight?

  • 2
    No FAQ is legally binding. This one bears a disclaimer, in every language, of which the English language version says "Although every care has been taken by the Federal Authorities to ensure the accuracy of the information published, no warranty can be given in respect of the accuracy, reliability, up-to-dateness or completeness of this information." That said, it does sound like the airline made a terrible mistake and you deserve compensation. – phoog Sep 19 at 0:55
  • 1
    @phoog if the Federal authorities’ own web sites cannot be relied on to be accurate, then whose can you? – Darren Sep 19 at 9:47
  • @Darren human error is unfortunately inescapable. The only documents that are legally binding are those published in a country's official journal. If something incorrect is published there, the country will be legally bound by it nonetheless. Something incorrect that is published elsewhere creates no right or obligation. – phoog Sep 19 at 13:48
  • @NateEldredge, Thanks - that's actually why I originally used SwissAir. Capitalized SWISS where referring to the airline, so I hope this is unambiguous now. – ach Sep 19 at 14:39
7

Unfortunately, the Swiss airline email seems to be based on the IATA Information offered throught their Swiss Travel Regulations system.

Full IATA Information: (Moscow-Zürich)
SWISS displays this information provided by IATA only as a courtesy and accepts no responsibility for this third-party information.

  1. Passengers are not allowed to enter.
    [same as 2 for portion shown below]
  2. Passengers are not allowed to transit if arriving from a non-Schengen Member State to another Schengen Member State.
  • This does not apply to:
    ...
    • residents of Schengen Member States returning directly via Switzerland to their country of residence;
    • passengers with a D visa issued by Switzerland;
    • passengers with a Schengen C visa issued by Switzerland after 16 March 2020;

...

This information contradicts the official swiss government information, which fully implements the EU Council Recommendation of the 30th of June 2020.

Durchreise aus Drittstaat, der auf der Risikoliste ist, kommend in Schengen-Staat
Die Einreise aus einem Risikostaat in die Schweiz zur Weiterreise in einen anderen Schengen-Staat ist nicht möglich für Kurzaufenthalte bis zu 90 Tagen, die keinen Aufenthaltstitel erfordern. Bei Drittstaatsangehörigen mit einem Aufenthaltstitel oder einem nationalen Visum D des Zielstaats im Schengen-Raum ist die Durchreise durch die Schweiz grundsätzlich möglich. Sollte der Zielstaat im Schengen-Raum eine Einreise für einen Kurzaufenthalt bis zu 90 Tagen im Einzelfall bewilligt haben, so muss die Einreise in den Schengen-Raum direkt über diesen Staat erfolgen.

Transit from a third country that is on the risk list, coming into the Schengen country
Entry from a risk country to Switzerland for onward travel to another Schengen country is not possible for short stays of up to 90 days that do not require a residence permit. Third-country nationals with a residence permit or a national visa D of the destination country in the Schengen area can generally travel through Switzerland. If the destination country in the Schengen area has approved entry for a short stay of up to 90 days in individual cases, entry into the Schengen area must take place directly through this country.

Hinweise für internationale Reisende
Bei Flugreisen gilt es zu beachten, dass die Fluggesellschaften selbst entscheiden, ob und unter welchen Bedingungen sie Passagiere befördern. Die Schweizer Behörden haben keinen Einfluss auf diesen Entscheid. Wir empfehlen Ihnen deshalb, sich vorgängig bei der betreffenden Fluggesellschaft bezüglich der Transportbedingungen zu erkundigen.

Advice for international travelers
When traveling by air, it is important to note that the airlines themselves decide whether and under what conditions they carry passengers. The Swiss authorities have no influence on this decision. We therefore recommend that you inquire in advance with the airline concerned about the transport conditions.


The IATA Information for the Czech Republic shows a similar result as with Switzerland:

  • passengers with a D visa issued by Czechia;

For Germany it shows:

  • passengers with a long term visa issued by an EEA Member State or Switzerland;

Since the airlines will be held responsible for passengers that don't fulfill the entry conditions, they rely heavily on the IATA information being correct. It is likely that other Airlines will come to the same conclusion.

Your only option seems to be to reroute your flight directly to the Czech Republic or transit through Germany.


Sources:

| improve this answer | |
  • Only Germany? What about Italy (Pobeda to Milan or Venice) or Hungary (Wizz to Budapest) or Latvia (Pobeda to Riga). From each of these cities, Ryanair flies to Prague. – chx Sep 19 at 6:40
  • 2
    @chx Feel free to check yourself. That why I added the Swiss Travel Regulations link for. I only checked others where I am familiar with the national regulations (Poland: inconclusive ; Austria: a maybe ; Germany: clear case). – Mark Johnson Sep 19 at 6:51
  • "residents of Schengen Member States returning directly via Switzerland to their country of residence" - this should cover OP. He's a resident thanks to his D visa. – JonathanReez Sep 19 at 7:13
  • @JonathanReez Depending on the jurasdiction, a D-Visa is for a stay in an EU country longer that 90 days (Austria up to 6 months ; Germany 12 months). They are also issued to take up a long term residence and after arrival are converted to a residence permit. That is why these regulations state either a residence permit or a D-Visa. – Mark Johnson Sep 19 at 7:26
  • @JonathanReez This first sentence should read: Depending on the jurasdiction, a D-Visa is for a stay in an EU country longer that 90 days (Austria up to 6 months ; Germany up to 12 months) without necessarily taking up a residence. – Mark Johnson Sep 19 at 8:03

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