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There’s no doubt that the world of passports, visas and international borders can be a complicated one. You’ll often hear crazy border crossing stories from people trying to travel from one country to another. While Americans, Europeans and citizens of many Western countries are blessed with a passport that is quite powerful, citizens of other countries often have a lot of trouble trying to get admitted into a country.

Background – flying to Sweden

I read this story over on the travel StackExchange – someone who (I think?) was traveling with Turkish Airlines on an Indian passport to the EU. They share their story as follows:

I was supposed to travel from Mumbai-> Istanbul-> Hannover. I had a Swedish Short Term Schengen Tourist Visa (under 90 days), and was planning to visit Germany first, then Sweden. Turkish Airlines denied me boarding at Istanbul to go to Hannover on the grounds that I should land in Sweden first because I had a Swedish Schengen visa. I argued my case with them, but in vain. They not only refused to let me board, but also rudely told me to go buy another ticket.

They were flying from Mumbai, India to Germany, connecting via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. As an Indian passport, they would have required a visa to enter the European Union / Schengen Area. According to the story, they did have a valid Swedish Schengen visa, but Turkish Airlines refused to allow them to board

a white airplane flying in the sky

EU Visa rules

I am not a lawyer or immigration expert, and I am not an expert on EU visas, since as a US passport holder I do not currently require a visa to enter the Schengen area, but it’s my understanding that people should apply for a Schengen visa in the main country of their destination. This may or may not be the first Schengen country that you are entering.

The EU FAQs on Schengen Visas state:

You must lodge the application for a Schengen visa at the Consulate of the country that you intend to visit, or – if you intend to visit more than one Schengen State, the Consulate of the country of your primary destination (i.e. main purpose of stay or
longest stay).
If you intend to visit several Schengen States and the stays will be of equal length, you must apply at the Consulate of the country whose external borders you will cross first when entering the Schengen area.

So it seems to me that in this case, if the main destination was Sweden, then that was the correct country to get the visa from, even if you were first entering the Schengen area from Germany.

The Outcome

The OP of the thread shares the resolution.

Finally, I ended up going on a VERY exhausting journey from Mumbai -> Istanbul -> Stockholm -> Frankfurt -> (By train to) Hannover. When I landed at Stockholm, Swedish immigration was actually outraged at Turkish Airlines about denial to board. In fact, I was questioned by 3 border security officials, because my file clearly stated that I was first expected in Hannover, so they were surprised to see me at Stockholm. When they finally understood what had happened, they were furious at Turkish Airlines, and repeatedly stated that Turkish had no right to deny boarding. Schengen zones allow you to travel with this flexibility.

a close-up of a passport

The Bottom Line – Was Turkish Airlines correct?

Again, I am not a lawyer or immigration expert, but it seems to me that Turkish Airline denied boarding incorrectly. As one of the commenters on the original post mentioned, “the airline has a contract with the passenger. The contract and various laws specify the circumstances under which a passenger may be denied boarding. Believing that the passenger won’t be admitted is not among them (although it is a frequent misconception that it is). A valid reason for denying boarding is the passenger’s failure to have adequate documents. If the airline incorrectly determines that a passenger with correct documents has incorrect documents because it has trained its staff poorly then the airline has breached the contract of carriage”

Incorrectly believing the passenger won’t be admitted is not a valid reason to deny boarding.

What do you think? Was Turkish Airlines in the wrong? 

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