KLM Airlines’ denial of Filipino World Youth Day delegate’s flight hit

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An Air France-KLM plane on an airport tarmac. The airline reportedly prevented an 18-year-old indigenous Filipino woman, who was en route to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for World Youth Day from boarding on her onward flight on July 20 at the Kuala Lumpur airport because she appeared “not ready to travel” even if she had a folder with full documentation supporting her trip to Brazil. PHOTO FROM AIRFRANCEKLM-FINANCE.COM

MANILA, Philippines—An 18-year-old indigenous Filipino woman who was en route to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for World Youth Day was denied boarding on her onward flight on July 20 at the Kuala Lumpur airport, because personnel of KLM Airlines said she appeared “not ready to travel” even if she had a folder with full documentation supporting her trip to Brazil.

The incident involving Arjean Marie Belco of Bukidnon’s Talaandig tribe was posted on the social networking site Facebook in a letter of complaint from Goodxorg, the sponsor of her Brazil trip.

According to the Facebook post, Belco went through immigration in Malaysia without incident but was not allowed to board her connecting flight to Rio de Janeiro by a KLM employee identified as Mr. Shawa who said that Belco appeared “not ready to travel” and “that he was doubtful” about her trip, “even if she had a folder full of documentation.”

“Arjean was denied her right to travel. This could also be perceived as a possible case of discrimination based on appearance, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age or social status,” Goodxorg said in its post.

Belco’s Brazil trip was shouldered by Goodxorg and its partner Cartwheel, which pooled donations from all over the world to send the BS Education student to the Catholic event.

The airline employee allegedly barraged Belco with questions casting doubts on the legitimacy of her trip. She was asked, “Why is your passport so new?” “Your ticket is too cheap and purchased yesterday.” “Why (are you) flying through Malaysia if there are flights from the Philippines?” and “How much money (do) you have?”

The Brazil trip is Belco’s first outside the country, according to her sponsors, which explains her new passport. They also explained that the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Rio de Janeiro was approximately $1,000 cheaper than KLM’s Manila to Rio flight.

Belco showed airline personnel a bank statement from Cartwheel Foundation showing sufficient funds. She had $100 and P3,370 on her for emergencies and meals before her connecting flights to Brazil. She was also carrying clippings of media stories published in the Philippines about her trip.

But Goodxorg lamented that the papers and calls from the group were not enough for KLM.

The airline employee, Mr. Shawa, told the staff of Goodxorg over the phone that there was nothing he could do and that another ticket had to be bought. The group was required to get in touch with the Dutch Embassy in Malaysia, the Facebook post said.

“He was even laughing while listening to our side. We believe this is unacceptable,” the group said.

The nonprofit group Goodxorg (Good X or Good Exchanges) is led by Luis Petzhold, a Brazilian filmmaker and youth advocate, and Risa Halaguena, a Filipina lawyer and writer. Sending Belco to Brazil to attend World Youth Day, an international Catholic event to be held from July 23 to 28, is a pilot project of the group.

According to its Facebook page, Good X is “all about experiential learning. We believe that travel, culture and creativity should be appreciated and nurtured at a young age.”

In its letter posted on Facebook, Goodxorg said Belco showed the KLM staff the address and contact info of her host family in Brazil, and that she requested the airline staff to contact her sponsors in the Philippines to verify the information she gave. But the KLM staff denied the request.

The student also showed her folder of documents, which included her proof of enrollment in Pamulaan College and the University of South Eastern Philippines, and certification that she is a Cartwheel Foundation scholar being sponsored by Goodxorg and Cartwheel for the trip.

The Facebook post also said that Goodxorg contacted KLM reservations for pertinent information on the trip to Brazil before purchasing the ticket.

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  • labcu

    I really commend Arjean Marie for her coolness, presence of mine, good manners and sense of professionalism all encompasses the character of an excellent future teacher. Perhaps the airline employee can learn more from her!

  • Arnee

    Boycott KLM. I heard they are going bankrupt. That’s good news. Let’s party if that happens.

  • Azniro Onaici

    We can gain respect from other countries if we completely not allow our women to work as maids in other countries.This is an honest observation of many OFWs who have observed this in their stints abroad where many of our women are working as house maids, and yet some of them have college degree. According to some OFWs they could hardly walk on the streets of with their heads up while seeing our women cleaning cars early in the morning apart from doing their daily house works. They are working practically all day long especially during holidays because their employers have plenty of visitors coming in and out.

    • ZestyZombie

      Did you mean that being a housemaid is unworthy of any respect??? From what planet did you come from? If a person loves only one other person, and is indifferent to his fellow men, his love is not love but an enlarged egotism. Learn that, then maybe you can call yourself human!!!

      • Azniro Onaici

        It is possible that the only job you can do is being a house maid or maybe you are one of the house maid agencies that rob the money of the marginalized Filipinas who did not go to school. I am from the planet of educated people. You need to do house hold chores in your own house and take care of your babies.

      • ZestyZombie

        Sorry to disappoint but I’m neither a housemaid nor an agent as both hardly exist in the land I now reside. However, I remember when I was young back home in Manila, my parents thought us to treat everyone as equal. I remember our house helps and our yaya used to sit down with us during dinner and join us in every possible occasion. My parent thought us that we are no better people than they are just because we are fortunate enough. It’s sad that these people have to go out of the country to provide food for their own family, but isn’t that far more noble than people who looks at them with disgust and embarrassment just because they clean cars and house for other people. We are up and arms when other nationality discriminates against us, but aren’t we far worst for discriminating our own just because of social and economic status? Sad that your so called planet of educated people think this way. I guess you’re right, I don’t belong in your planet, because where I come from, I don’t look at people differently just because they don’t belong within my social and economic background. Hell I even treat animals as my equal. I wonder how the planet of educated people feels about that!!!! One thing will assure you though, when I decide to stay home with nothing to do but clean my own house and take care of my babies, I will definitely let them known about your planet and make sure they stay away. You can stay there and leave us humans who knows and embrace humanity.

      • Azniro Onaici

        Then you can be my wife. I am only 31 years old. Hows about that? Dark tall and handsome: 5’11” mixed blood persian and fil.

    • Gee berdin

      Azniro Onaici I hope you are aware that Philippines is a labor abundant and labor intensive country. Do you even realize that what keeps our economy afloat are the remittances that we get when these OFWs send money to their family? We are a developing nation, and it seems to me that you are forgetting that one thing. Our economy does not depend on the current administration we’re in. It highly depends on the middle class and the OFWs. The only resources we have is our very own labor, that is also the reason why BPOs are in demand here in the Philippines. Foreign direct investment, trade, and other sorts cannot help in alleviating the poverty in the country. This is why it is important for us to cling onto migration because it’s what keeps our economy stable regardless of the poverty and corruption in the country.

  • Cobra

    There is a bigot inside everybody,it’s just some are more bigoted than others,even at check-in counters in Phls.They ask silly questions that only immigration people should ask.I think some people who works for airlines have a feeling of power over the customers especially if they don’t like the way you look.I boarded a China Southern flight from Manila to Guangzou,I noticed a stewardess looks annoyed with pinoy passengers,so I confronted her about her manners,passengers no matter how they look paid for their fares much the same as everybody.

  • Grace

    Boycott KLM!

    • Diepor

      Easy for you to say when you dont fly to Europe. KLM is still the best choice. They have done a mistake, or one of their ground crew in Malaysia did a mistake. They need to change the agency they use in KL, thats all. I have used KLM alot and have allways been treated with respect.

      • Grace

        YOU have been treated with respect. Easy for you to say because you are not the one discriminated in the article ABOVE. In case you havent read that. She doesnt deserved to be treated that way just because she is an indigenous Filipino. No one deserves to discriminated based on appearance, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age or social status.

        You may look professional but your personality stinks!
        Go back to your roots!

      • Diepor

        Thats what I tried to say. They should change their agency in KL, this girl had to wait a day to fly and that is not acceptable.

        No one deserves to be discriminated but it happens every day, every minute everywhere.

        I guess if you met a dirty, alcoholic street person in a dark street you would try to avoid him just based on apperance and gender.

      • Grace

        It happens everyday but should be not in a situation like this where she has all the papers and documents to show.
        Thats a different topic to discuss.
        You are going off the topic. Non sense.

      • Diepor

        No one deserves to discriminated based on appearance, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age or social status.

      • Grace

        Did I mention stupidity? :-)

      • Diepor

        Personal attacks allways makes the best arguments for smart jobless people like you.
        Is it your mama paying for your internet ?

      • Diepor

        If one filipino does something wrong is that reason to blame all filipinos?
        If one person in an agency KLM use in KL do something, is that reason to blame the whole company?

  • We must end poverty

    What KLM did was wrong. Horribly wrong.

    The (KLM) airline employee allegedly barraged Belco with questions casting doubts on the legitimacy of her trip. She was asked, “Why is your passport so new?”

    But you know who else is doing something horribly wrong? Filipino immigration officers. Whenever you travel out of Manila, have you noticed filipino immigration officers harassing filipinos, their own countrymen??

    “Why are you going to Singapore?”
    “Why are you going to Hong Kong?”
    “Show me your ticket.”

    Filipinos apparently do not have the right to leave the Philippines. They have to justify their trip! If you hold a valid Philippine passport, you cannot leave the Philippines without explaining WHERE you are going, WHY you are going, WHEN you will be coming back, HOW you will come back.

    If a Filipino is not on the Hold Departure List, how can anyone stop them from leaving their country???

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