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Asking from Australia and about Malaysian Airlines specifically:

How good a case is it to seek compensation for flights if the airline failed to check documentation correctly and let us board in the first place?

My partner and I boarded a flight to a destination for which, it turned out, he was unable to gain a visa-upon-entry into (Australian travel document, Thailand).

We were subsequently put on a flight back to Australia of which we were told we were 'covered' by our return flight fees. In short, we essentially lost the return fees in full, and incurred additional costs from an airport hotel overnight due to flight connection times.

Is this something that could've been avoided if the airline had checked the validity of the travel document in the first place, so that we could have at least remained at home and claimed a refund for the return leg of the journey?

What is the best way to go about addressing this issue?

  • 2
    Yep it's not their responsibility to check your documentation. You made a mistake, I'm afraid it's your fault. – user9533 Sep 1 '14 at 12:47
  • It's a sad situation, but it's actually super-lucky they shipped you back, for free. You had no holiday, but an anecdote for life :) – Fattie Sep 1 '14 at 20:29
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    To address the issue, you would need to research which parts of the Montreal Convention 1999 and the IATA Consumer Protection Regimes apply to your grievance. If your carrier is an IATA member or is subject to the Montreal Convention, you may have a path of recourse. Otherwise forget it. – Gayot Fow Sep 1 '14 at 20:51
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    1) Visas are your responsibility, not the airlines. 2) Australians do not normally need a visa for Thailand for tourism (but they do for business) - and the airlines do not know your specific situation or why you are visiting the country. Write this off as a lesson learnt and take responsibility for your own mistake, don't try and blame them on others. – Doc Sep 1 '14 at 22:31
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Malaysia Airlines' website is a little vague (the only reference I could find was here), but for pretty much any airline, the responsibility to have the right visa and travel documents is ultimately yours. Returning you back to your home country if you are denied entry is at the airlines' expense (you were probably lucky, unless you were travelling on a fully-flexible ticket, that they allowed you to cover this with your existing return ticket). They only check visas to minimise the chances of this happening; the ultimate responsibility is yours. So, no, I very much doubt they will agree to compensation.

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Generally speaking, even if the arrival country require so, I can not see why you could blame an airline company for bringing you from A to B at your request.

It is possible (I once did it on purpose) to buy your next ticket in the transit zone.

As an example, imagine you are coming from France and plan to visit a client in Taiwan and another in Vietnam. But you are not sure in which order. The first step is to fly to KL anyway, once you are there, you will decide without exiting the International zone. You don't need a Malaysian Visa for that.

I personally used that in the pre-internet area. I was in France, I had a free flight to Singapore and wanted to go to Australia. But Qantas France would sell the ticket twice more expensive than Quatas Singapore and quatas Singapore would not send the ticket to France. So, I bought the ticket at Qantas counter in the International zone of Singapore airport.

By allowing me to board in, Air France breached their agreement with Singapore officials, but how can YOU legally blame them for breaking an agreement with Singapore while you are not yet in Singapore and you have rational reason to do so. The fact that 99% of travelers are not in this situation is not exactly an argument. Let the last 1% live.

In your case, you had no good reason, but it is YOUR mistake; not theirs (Except from Australian point of view, but you are not Australian). You MAYBE had reason to do so.

  • 1
    fascinating anecdote! – Fattie Sep 1 '14 at 20:27
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Clarify: you are from a country that normally does not need a visa in advance to enter Thailand? And you had a passport?

You were granted admission to Thailand, your partner was denied. You both have travel documents from the same country?

If that is the case, and the airline checked that you both had passports before departure, then their responsibility is done. Airlines are not immigration agents and cannot know who is admissible and who is not. They have lists of which groups of people are admissible under what circumstances but that's where they stop.

Airlines get large fines from the destination if they board someone with invalid documents. They don't get fined if the destination refuses an individual for cause. So they are usually pretty good at checking the papers.

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