Having a complicated citizenship caused an expensive problem for this traveler

Leon Razzon is convinced that his daughter, Lora, should have been permitted to fly from Raleigh-Durham to Istanbul with only a U.S. Passport, which was about to expire, and a Turkish citizen card. American Airlines denies her boarding — and now he wants compensation.

Question: My daughter, who has dual citizenship, was denied boarding on American Airlines for her return flight to Istanbul via London. The reason American gave was that there was less than 60 days’ validity left on her passport. Lora presented the agent with her Turkish birth certificate.

The agent then asked for a confirmation from the Turkish Consulate verifying that Lora would be able to enter Turkey with her ID. It took 15 minutes for an email to arrive, but then the agent went off duty. The new agent (a supervisor) denied boarding even with the email. Lora was told that she would not be able to fly until she obtained a new U.S. or Turkish passport.

I ended up purchasing her a new ticket on Turkish Airlines, and Lora was able to fly the next morning with the same documentation that AA refused. So now I want a refund for the unused ticket and repaid some amount for the new, more expensive ticket. Can you help me? Leon Razzon, Istanbul, Turkey

Answer: Unfortunately, there is not a lot that can be done when a traveler arrives at the airport without the globally accepted and required documentation for international travel.

Your daughter did not possess the required documentation for a U.S. citizen to enter Turkey as listed on the U.S. State Department’s website. Her U.S. passport was about to expire, and Turkey requires a six-month validity beyond the date of entry.

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You and your daughter believed that because she also carried a Turkish citizen’s card, she would be permitted to travel from the U.S. to Turkey via London. This was a mistaken assumption since a Turkish citizen card is not a listed form of identification for international travel from the United States to Turkey.

But, I thought Lora’s situation was unclear and I contacted American Airlines on your behalf and asked if your daughter was rightfully rejected from her flight to Istanbul.

Our executive contact at American Airlines escalated your concern to corporate security to confirm that your daughter’s case was handled properly.

In fact, the notes in your daughter’s record seem to indicate that she knew that she needed to have a Turkish passport if she wished to travel as a Turkish citizen from the United States. Her record notes that she had said that she “forgot her Turkish passport.”

So that left her traveling as a U.S. citizen, and her U.S. passport only had two weeks before expiration — not nearly enough to legally enter Turkey as a U.S. citizen.

Airlines can be fined heavily for delivering passengers to international destinations without the required entry documents. They have a financial stake in ensuring that all travelers possess the required travel documents — before they board the plane.

It is the traveler’s responsibility to check with the U.S. State Department before they head to the airport. Visiting travel.state.gov before traveling can answer most questions about foreign destinations and their entry requirements.

Of course, if a traveler has a more complicated situation such as your daughter’s, it would be prudent to visit the consulate of the intended destination to find out what is necessary for travel — before attempting to check in for an international flight.

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In the end, American Airlines offered you a goodwill gesture of refunding the return flight that your daughter did not use. However, they reiterated that your daughter did not have the internationally accepted and required documentation for travel to Turkey on a U.S. passport. If she had a Turkish passport or a valid U.S. passport she would have been permitted to fly to Istanbul.

Although you were pleased with this refund, you are not satisfied and have continued to email me your arguments of why American Airlines made an incorrect decision in this case.

Curiously, your adult daughter has remained out of the discourse completely.

Your main argument continues to be that Lora flew the next day without incident to Turkey with the same documents; however, this time, she was on Turkish Airlines. These agents may have been more familiar with a Turkish citizen card and were willing to accept your daughter as a confirmed Turkish citizen with this document.

As I have pointed out to you, this is a battle that your adult daughter should be fighting, and if you believe that American Airlines violated some official policy or regulation (which you have not been able to provide at this time) you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation or consult with a lawyer.

Should American Airlines have allowed Razzon's daughter to fly with her Turkish citizen's card and an expiring U.S. passport?

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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