On 11-9-23 in Brussels, Belgium (BRU), Etihad denied our boarding for flight EY58 to Abu Dhabi, UAE (AUH) (with only hand luggage), which connected to EY218 to Delhi, India (DEL) T3. From T3, we would proceed with AI213 to Kathmandu, Nepal (KTM). The ground personnel of Etihad in Brussels said, "You need an Indian transit visa for Delhi. You will also lose all your returning flights. You'll need to buy new tickets." Consequently, we left Brussels 5 hours later with two Emirates tickets that avoided India, costing €1640. Upon inquiring with Etihad over the phone, they stated, "Since you contacted us in a timely manner, you can retain all your return flights."
When we flew back from KTM-DEL-AUH-BRU three weeks later, this time with an Indian transit visa, we stayed in the T3 transit lounge. There was no passport or visa check, making the visa seem unnecessary. The Indian visa offices in both Kathmandu and Brussels confirmed to me via email that "if you only have hand luggage, you do not need a transit visa for Delhi." However, Etihad insisted, "You do need it. We are correct. Furthermore, your AI213 should have been printed on the same ticket, which is another reason for denying your boarding."
Etihad in UAE confirmed that they deny boarding to numerous passengers daily due to this reason. However, they do not inform about these visa restrictions in ticket purchase emails, boarding pass emails, on their website, etc. They stated, "We don't provide this information. Passengers must look up the relevant IATA rules themselves." It seems to us that Etihad is applying IATA rules meant for travelers with checked-in luggage even to those carrying only hand luggage.
For context, I traveled the Europe-Delhi-Kathmandu route twice in 2022, and over the past 30 years, I've taken this route more than 80 times without ever being denied boarding.
- Is this correct?
- Is this reasonable?
- Where can one find the visa rule that Etihad adheres to?