"You will not be allowed to board your flight to Shanghai because you have no visa"

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by bucketlist, Dec 17, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. bucketlist
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    bucketlist Silver Member

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    This reviews difficulties encountered on an EWR-lax-PVG mileage run.

    My son and I were on a promotional (cheap) EWR...PVG fare, ticket bought on AA.COM months ago, trip taken about 2 weeks ago. The ticket required an overnight in LAX.

    To avoid the fairly expensive China visa, we planned to, and did, take advantage of China's policy, that you could visit Shanghai for up to 48 hours, without a visa, if you presented evidence of a flight outside of China w/ 48 hours of arrival.

    2 times before departure mentioned to phone agents that we had ongoing flights on a Star Alliance carrier w/in 48 hrs of arrival. Was told all such details would be taken care of at checkin.

    Tried to check in, on-line, for the trip - was allowed to check in for the 1st leg, EWR-lax, but not the second. Asked at check-in why could we not check in for the entire flight - was told it was because the flight to PVG was more than 24 hours away, which it was.

    Flew to LAX, spent the night there, then checked in for lax-PVG. Some reluctance, but when we explained our onward flight to Japan w/in 48 hours and presented copies of our itinerary and a digital copy of appropriate web page from Peoples Republic, were allowed to check in.

    At the Intl F lounge (very nice) we were advised about 30 minutes after arrival that we would not be allowed to board the plane as we had no visa and AA had been fined $3K the day before for letting people fly to China w/out a visa.

    Explained to the lounge agent, who was courteous throughout, what we were doing, showed her cc's of documentation, etc., but she deferred to the gate agents who were researching the matter and would make the final decision, but as of that moment, we would not be allowed to board, unless we had an immediate, or w/in 24 hour, onward flight.

    Went into frantic mode - calling AA reservations - could they advise the gate what the rules were, or let us fly to Japan or somewhere to salvage something of the trip. They were cordial but said they could do nothing, it was up to the gate agent. Called UA (we were on an award ticket to Japan) to see if we could get on a one day earlier flight to Fukuoka if we had to - there were no flights available.

    Spent over an hour on cell phone making calls. We eventually heard from the AAngel in the lounge that our understanding of China's visa laws was correct and we would be allowed to board.

    My concerns - The LAX folks really should know the China visa requirements. This policy has been around for years. This is just going to get worse as Beijing is likely to go to a "no visa" rule for stays of less than 3 days (proposed for next year - it hasn't gone into effect yet and may never).

    It's awful to be told after you've flown cross-country, and made multiple other reservations, that you're not going to be allowed on the plane. If we were to be denied boarding, it should have been in EWR, rather than at LAX.

    I called the phone agents twice in the weeks before this to mention the ongoing trip, ask did they need the UA PNR or any other details, mentioned it at EWR, mentioned it at LAX. Don't know what could have been done differently to avoid this situation.
    (On UA, a year or two ago, on a MSY-lax-SYD flight I was denied/delayed in boarding at MSY due to concerns about a Visa, which I had barely enuf time to resolve on the phone and make my MSY-lax flight - my point being that visa concerns were hashed out at the start of a flight, rather than in the middle).

    My point in posting is to let others know that, at LAX at least, some agents don't know the visa rules - if you're planning on taking advantage of the 48 hr free pass to Shanghai, allow lots of extra time to check in and realize that even tho you've checked in, you may have to argue to be allowed to board the plane. Bring excellent documentation of your ongoing flight (which we had), you will need it to show to China immigration officials and to show to gate agents at the check-in counter.
     
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  2. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    PEK will allow 72 hour visa free transists starting Jan 1 (LINK), and PVG will move from 48 hours to 72 as well (LINK).

    As for your situation, sorry that it was such a mess. While airline staff cannot have the entry requirements for every country memorized, they should at least have a full understanding of the specific destinations their carrier serves from that airport. Glad it eventually worked out!
     
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  3. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I'm still wondering why this is at the discretion of the gate agent though... at the end of the day they don't make the policy, and should they be uninformed of the requirements (as it seems was the case) it could lead to all kinds of unecessary mess.

    Imagine if you had actually gone through the trouble of changing your plans while they were "researching" the matter...
     
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  4. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Do major airlines like AA not have a help desk that can help the individual agents in situations like this?
     
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  5. abk
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    abk Silver Member

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    After Thanksgiving I was flying Stl-Ord-Hkg. At check in at Stl they wanted to see my visa for Hong Kong and I explained to the agent it wasn't necessary ( this is the 2nd time I have had to do this) and then said it is not worth the argument as I have a 1 year China visa but they look at you like you don't understand what you are doing and they do.
     
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  6. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    About a year ago I was flying UA to PVG from LAX with an overnight layover to a separate ticket on CX; I had to make sure to tell any agent looking for my visa that in Timatic, they needed to consider the PRC as a connection with HKG (or DXB) as the destination, or else the TWOV info wouldn't show up on their screens.

    See http://milepoint.com/forums/threads...without-a-visa-for-us-passport-holders.24612/ for what I wrote up after that trip.
     
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  7. bucketlist
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    bucketlist Silver Member

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    I called the EXP line first - they were polite, sympathetic, but said they had no power to tell the gate agent what to do and offered no suggestions re. someone else at AA to call. That's when I called the 1K line at UA to check on possible availability of a one day earlier trip to Japan (the gate agent apparently felt that a 24 stay was OK, but a 48 hr stay was not).
     
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  8. estnet
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    estnet Gold Member

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    Isn't this what computers are for! Type in destination visa requirements pop up PROBLEM SOLVED. Why is this so hard for the airlines?
     
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  9. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Actually, most airlines have exactly that. Timatic: LINK. They're just using it wrong. ;)
     
  10. basiface

    basiface Silver Member

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    It shouldn't be, but crap rolls downhill. When AA got the 3k fine I can only imagine that the lead agent for the flight that person was on got called to the supervisors office and grilled, then a memo was sent out to the rest of the agents to give anyone without a visa the Gandolf treatment..." You shall not pass!!"

    Typical case of idiot proofing the system instead of actually looking at the issue and solving the problem.
     
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  11. Rob
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    Rob Gold Member

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    If they type in PRC as the destination, that's where you'll run into problems ;) They need to type in PRC as connection and whatever your ultimate destination is, even if on a separate ticket.
     
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  12. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Ultimate, can the airline recover any fines from the passenger who was denied entry due to a visa issue?
     
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  13. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Not AA, but US, when they first began service CLT-GIG tried to deny me boarding in CLT because I had no Brazil visa in my US passport. I showed my Brazil passport, but was told "that is not what we need, US citizens must have a Brazil visa." Eventually I solved the problem by leaving the document check line and reentering for another GA.

    My point: whatever the issue, whatever the airline, there is risk of poorly informed GA's. the growing complexity of rules makes it worse. The OP did everything he could have as stated, and problems still happen. I encounter such issues globally (try telling a US GA that you do not need a visa for Russia because your country has visa waiver. Poor :confused: GA ) but mostly in the US. For the last year or so I have simply requested escalation of the issue if the GA does not look up the information, already know it, or accept my iPad-stored regulations. I have had delayed boarding but never denied.

    Not once have I had such problems with EK, LH, AF or KL. With every US carrier and BA I have had. SQ and CX have checked documents carefully, so taken a little time, but have caused zero problems in so doing. Dual passports usually take a little extra time for checking.
     
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  14. LIH Prem
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    LIH Prem Gold Member

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    lol
     
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  15. webdes03

    webdes03 Gold Member

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    We were always told at DL that if we sent a passenger to an international destination and they didn't have proper documentation when they got there, they were sent back to the United States at the airline's expense. The airline is also responsible for any fines imposed by the country refusing entry.

    Every airline has either an in-house database of countries with entry requirements or a database they subscribe to that airlines have access to. It sounds like the verbiage surrounding stopovers needs to be cleaned up and they need to make sure the agents know how to access it.

    The strangest one I ever had was was a passenger traveling BGM-ATL-FRA-GYD. Yeah, I had to look up GYD... Heydar Alliyev airport in Baku, Azerbaijan. After looking up the entry requirements, it turns out that to visit Azerbaijan you have to have a physical letter from a resident there inviting you to come visit. You can't just pop up and say hello. Of course, he had done his homework, had everything he needed, and was going to visit a business acquaintance for a hunting trip. That's definitely the one that stuck in my head after all those years.

    Case in point though, that the information is available to the agent. They just have to know where to look and the information that's in that system has to be good and detailed.
     
  16. bonnerbl
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    bonnerbl Gold Member

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    A friend from Burkina Faso is here in the U.S. applying for citizenship. At the airport when he was leaving they wouldn't let him board the plane because he didn't have a visa. He pointed out that his documents stated he was -born- in Burkina Faso and obviously didn't need a visa to return home. The GA would not budge. He had to leave the airport and call the airline and complain. He took him a couple of days before the airline contacted him and said ok you can board this new flight. No apology. (It was a non-US carrier.).
     
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  17. DestinationDavid
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    My US-issued passport says I was born in Japan. If Japan suddenly decided to require visas for US citizens to enter, I'm not sure my place of birth being noted on my passport would suffice to allow me on the plane. ;)

    That being said, if he was traveling on a passport issued by Burkina Faso, I don't see why the airline would stop him from boarding.
     
  18. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    Interestingly, I bet many posters on this website wouldn't even blink an eye before identifying GYD. :D
     
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  19. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Being born in a country does not automatically make you a citizen, anywhere. Not even in the US. A person born in the US of parents who were accredited diplomats of another country do NOT acquire US citizenship by birth. I found out that one as a friend of mine born in NYC fought to gain US citizenship though he'd never lived anywhere else in his 30+ years. Many countries in many parts of the world do not give automatic citizenship by birth.

    According to the Burkina citizenship data I found, Burkina Faso is one country that does NOT confer citizenship automatically by birth. So, absent a Burkina passport or national ID card I'm with the airline on this. As David knows Japan is another of those countries. There are hundreds of thousands ethnic Koreans who've lived in Japan for generations and often never left Japan who are not entitled to Japanese citizenship IIRC.
     
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  20. DestinationDavid
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    DestinationDavid Milepoint Guide

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    I was born in Japan to a mother who is a Japanese citizen and lived 13 years of my life there, but was still not qualified for Japanese citizenship. My younger brother was born in Japan under slightly different circumstances and was given citizenship, but had it revoked when he was 18 and chose to remain a US citizen.

    On the other hand, my cousin who is a Japanese citizen and her husband (also a Japanese citizen) recently had a baby in the Philippines since they left Japan after the Fukushima disaster. The baby is a Japanese citizen, despite not being born in Japan.

    Citizenship and the methods by which one can attain it are a complex issue in most countries around the world.
     
  21. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    ...Making one of the reasons why GA's sometimes can seem too rigid or silly. I empathize with their problems, even including such ostensibly obvious ones as mine. Our stories make them seem stupid, but they're dealing every day with nearly endless permutations. At he best of times that is not easy.
     
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  22. anabolism
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    anabolism Gold Member

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    This is certainly an interesting thread.

    I sympathize with the OP and agree he did what should have been sufficient. I realize he was trying to save the cost of a visa to China, which is not cheap. I also sympathize with the agents who are forced to make decisions, apparently without sufficient training, and under pressure to not cost the airline money and not disaccomodate a passenger.

    Last time I had an overnight in PVG on a business trip, I explained to my department's travel secretary that I didn't need a visa because it was a transit stop between two other countries, but she didn't want to risk it and insisted I get a visa. Likewise, our corporate travel agent said "I don't care what it says on the Embassy of China web page, what counts is what they say when you enter the country and you don't want to risk it." From reading FT threads on the topic I was relieved they did insist on a visa for me because of the reports of denied boarding (but I didn't want to be the one asking for a visa because I didn't want to be seen as costing the company more money than necessary.)
     
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  23. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    That has been my general practice too. I have had exceptions but I try to have a visa everywhere that it might be required and avoid tempting fates.

    OT: Of course there was the time... many years ago I was on IY direct from ATH to SAH with a stop in RUH. Note: "direct" not "non-stop", so I did not need a Saudi visa, which at the time were single entry without exception, and also for exit. The airplane had a mechanical at RUH. I was carrying four cases, yes, cases, or booze back home to SAH where I had a booze license. We all sweltered on the airplane until finally the aircraft was taken out of service and we were herded into the terminal and our bags put in the customs queue. OMG, my booze!!~ will I go to prison? In the meantime the IY station manager found out who I was (at the time I was a VIP to them) and put me in his office. An hour later my bags appeared in the office too. Then may bags and I went out from his office to the parking lots and I with my bags were taken to a hotel. There I was in a Saudi hotel with four cases of booze! I called my friend who lived in Riyadh, 3 AM it was and ordered him to my hotel immediately for an emergency. He, unknowingly but a good friend, responded in a few minutes. He received my four cases of booze, and has expressed gratitude ever since. I was shuttled back through teh station managers door and never officially entered the Kingdom. end of OT story.
     
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  24. TRAVELSIG
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    TRAVELSIG Gold Member

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    Great story jbcarioca!

    Saudi visa a few years ago ranks among the very most difficult I have ever received.
     
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  25. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    At one point I traveled to Saudi nearly every week. My passport from that era looks much like an accordion. The process did become routine, but prepared me to not complain too much about bureaucracy...at least in front of a bureaucrat.
     
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