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I'm aware there's a form you can sign if ground staff at an airport doesn't want to let you to board an aircraft due to ignorance regarding the destination's entry (or in this case transit) requirements. This way, the carrier's liability is waived if you don't get into your destination.

What is the form called? In other words, what exactly should I ask for?

More likely than not, I'm going to have to ask for this at Tbilisi airport, from where I'm taking a flight to Doha in 3 days (in transit to London). As I only hold an ID card, which is accepted for the UK (my destination), I don't expect to get an easy time boarding the Tbilisi-Doha flight (even though I'll not be entering Qatar), because Timatic doesn't explicitly state that I can transit Qatar on my ID (nor does it state the opposite). Hence, such a form would be of great help.

I've read about this in this blog, where the author, who had trouble boarding a flight to Minsk for transit with her Portuguese ID card, writes:

I wrote some haiku style poems on my phone until the airline man came with a sheet for me to sign: ‘It’s to make you responsible for coming back, in case they don’t allow you to stay in Minsk or enter Georgia.

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    I'm not quite sure how you would go about waiving the carrier's liability, since it's not you to whom they are liable; if such were possible, it would surely be part of every carrier's standard terms. You could indemnify them against the liability, that is to say you could promise to pay any costs the airline incurred as a result of carrying you, but if I were an airline I'm not sure I'd trust that unless you were obviously a person of means, or you were to lodge some kind of bond or other funds on deposit against the likelihood of them being called upon. – MadHatter Jan 22 '17 at 8:47
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    You've generally already agreed to such terms as part of the airline's contract of carriage anyway. It's certainly conceivable that some airline has a form, but I've never heard of this being a standard practice. If it was common to be able to convince airline agents to let you board when they doubted your documentation by signing a form, surely we wouldn't hear so many stories of people being turned away at the check-in counter? – Zach Lipton Jan 22 '17 at 11:11
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    @ZachLipton YMMV, but they do exist: I've been offered such form exactly once, when I had a valid Vietnamese visa that had been (incorrectly) issued in a passport with less than 6 months validity. It's unlikely you would be offered one unless you were in a similar grey zone where it's not clear that the airline is liable. – jpatokal Jan 22 '17 at 12:50
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    @jpatokal Question is if this couldn't be such a grey zone. I'm not doing any Qatari immigration checks after all, nor does Timatic state that a passport is required simply to transit Qatar (unlike for Mauritius or Canada). Neither, unfortunately, does it state the opposite (unlike for Ukraine). The Timatic team told me this is because they don't write explicit statements about transiting countries where transit passengers are not subject to document checks. – Crazydre Jan 22 '17 at 12:56
  • If this form existed, it would completely upend the reprehensible world order where refugees are denied boarding to safe countries because they do not have visas and, of course, the airline can not know for sure whether they would be granted asylum. – chx Jan 22 '17 at 14:51
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You can not waive the airline's responsibility to only transport passengers that have permission to enter the destination. That contract / regulation is between the airline and the country and you have no legal say on that rule.

You could sign a document that you promise not to sue the airline if you don't get in. But that does not absolve the airline of potentially being fined by the country for transporting you there.

Not sure where you read of this waiver, but there doesn't seem to be much legal clout to it.

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    +1, There's no case to answer for the airline. The person would file suit against the receiving country, and these happen from time-to-time. And sometimes the person wins! – Gayot Fow Jan 22 '17 at 10:50
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    That blog post sounds like an unusual case that was not covered explicitly in the rules. It would seem the airline felt it was safe in transporting, but had the traveler sign an agreement that they were footing the bill for the return flight if they didn't get admitted. – user13044 Jan 22 '17 at 10:50
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    "You could sign a document that you promise not to sue the airline if you don't get in." You already have no grounds to sue the airline if they take you to a country where you're refused entry, so signing such a document would be a total waste of time. – David Richerby Jan 22 '17 at 12:01
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    It should be noted that I know I won't be refused entry at my destination, which is the UK. Same thing in Qatar, I'm only transiting and will only go through security. The issue here is purely paranoia and ignorance I'm likely to face from Georgian ground staff – Crazydre Jan 22 '17 at 12:16
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    You are right that, legally speaking, a flyer cannot unilaterally waive the airlines' responsibility enshrined in a contract between the airline & the arriving nation. But what they can do is introduce another contract i.e. the waiver which makes the flyer contract to make good any penalties charged to the airline by the nation. Enforcing the contract is a entirely different can of worms. But this sort of situation is common. A & B sign a contract and then separately B signs a contract with C that enforces obligations on C towards B depending contingent upon some action taken by A against B – curious_cat Jan 22 '17 at 12:57
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So, I was not offered this kind of form, and so cannot say what it's called.

However, regarding the actual issue: I called Qatar Airways's central hotline and explained my situation, whereby they put a note in the system "IN TRANSIT TO LONDON HOLDING A NATIONAL ID CARD. OK TO BOARD".

Despite having checked in online and printed my boarding pass, I went to the check-in desk 4 hours before departure to get a written confirmation to show gate staff, as I wasn't sure they'd have access to the system like the check-in staff.

After 30 minutes of bickering with a lady about whether I could travel, and insisting that she summon her supervisor, she eventually did. He checked the system for 3 minutes, eventually asking me "you go to London?" I said yes, whereby he said "wait" and called someone. Then, he printed out two fresh boarding passes and put a special stamp on the Tbilisi-Doha one (presumably similar to Ryanair's and Wizz's stamps indicating a non-EU passenger has been cleared), and told me I could go to the gate.

When I presented the documents at the gate, the agent scrutinised the stamped boarding pass for 20 seconds, before saying "OK, have a good flight".

That was the end of it - the rest of the trip was 100% painless.

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There are two kinds of liability here.

First, the airline is liable to the government of the destination country if they bring the passenger which is obviously not admissible (such as not having proper documents for the destination). This liability is serious (monetary fines and possible suspension of operations). Thus in this case one should expect to be refused boarding, and I can't think of a case when anyone would offer to sign a form.

Second, there are cases when the passenger has the required paperwork, but the airline thinks there's a good chance the passenger would not be admitted. A good example is provided by @jpatokal above - having a passport with a valid visa, which shouldn't be issued. In this case the airline will not be fined, but still would be liable to fly the passenger back/onward as he won't be allowed entry. This will cost the airline extra (the return flight might be fully booked so someone has to be bumped), and while their contract of carriage usually already has provisions to charge you for those costs, they sometime bring a separate form for you to sign.

If you get this form: it would typically state that a) you have been warned and b) are aware that for [the reason they suspect] you may be refused entry, and c) in case of refused entry you agree to fly back on the airline's return flight and d) pay the full Y fare.

Why? There could be several reasons, although we can only guess (and the gate agent would just say "this is our standard procedure"):

  • To further point out/remind that you are to spend some money if you're not allowed in - maybe in hope some people would get scared and decide not to board, letting the airline to make extra money by reselling your seat;

  • To make it easier to legally collect money from you. If you bought your ticket from US, but flying from Doha to Georgia, and they'd bring you back to Doha, the contract signed in Doha would be easier to enforce there (it could, for example, state that the venue is in Doha). The court is also much more likely agree that you've read - and thus agreed - to this provision, comparing to regular "contracts of carriage", which nobody reads - and for which the airline even puts effort to make sure you wouldn't even want to read it.

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So it turns out that Qatar Airways does have such a form, which is labeled "Indemnity Form: missing or insufficient travel documents," though it is unclear under what circumstances you'd be allowed to sign it and travel and under what circumstances you would be denied boarding, as airlines generally have legal obligations to governments to not transport passengers without the required documents. An airline cannot simply ignore these obligations by allowing passengers to sign a form, and so it is unlikely that the form would be offered to all passengers with questionable document situations.

A copy of the form is shown in this tweet, as some passengers were allegedly asked to sign them as part of this weekend's monumentally stupid, bigoted, and heartless (not to mention, at least as to some aspects, quite likely illegal) emergency change to US immigration policy. (Note that Qater Airways claims the forms were not used for this purpose this weekend. I offer it here as an example of the form's existence, not to cite any specific circumstance where it might or might not be used.)

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As noted, there is no form waive liability. The airline could present you with an indemnification agreement, which is technically different. I've never seen nor even heard of one.

However, it's important to note that this happens all the time, the airline seeks indemnification for the cost of return by requiring return or onward tickets in some situations. But most of the time, they just accept the risk as the cost of doing business.

The thing is, if you expect the staff to 'misunderstand' transit requirements at DOH, a large transit hub, I would be a bit surprised if they even considered the existence of such a form.

Get there early enough to talk to a supervisor at check-in if there are any issues.

  • It's Tbilisi where OP is expecting he might run into problems, not Doha. He says he's certain he won't have problem transiting Doha, but expects that he might run into trouble boarding the flight from Tbilisi to Doha. – reirab Jan 22 '17 at 18:59
  • @reirab I understand OP completely. "I don't expect to get an easy time boarding the Tbilisi-Doha flight...can transit Qatar " OP is concerned the staff at TBS may not understand the requirements to travel to/through DOH. – Johns-305 Jan 22 '17 at 19:11
  • Ah, sorry, I parsed your third paragraph incorrectly. I read it as you thought he expected the staff at DOH to misunderstand the transit requirements there. – reirab Jan 22 '17 at 20:18

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