Irish airline Aer Lingus suspends 'degrading' language tests

Ruth Doherty

Irish airline Are Lingus suspends 'degrading' language tests after Greek woman Chryssa Dislis complains
Irish airline Are Lingus suspends 'degrading' language tests after Greek woman Chryssa Dislis complains


Irish airline Aer Lingus has this week suspended a language test it used to filter out fake passports - after a Greek passenger complained of "humiliating" treatment.

The procedure was used by the airline at its Spain and Portugal check-in desks to identify people travelling on fake passports, but its downfalls were highlighted by Greek-born Chryssa Dislis who complained of "degrading" treatment when she checked in for a 6 January 2012 flight from Barcelona to her home in Cork, southwest Ireland.

According to the Huffington Post, she said: "The situation was completely insane. How, in an age of biometric passports, can an airline stop me from flying unless I speak Greek to them?"

Matters were made worse as her husband and 10-year-old daughter were allowed to check in after the six-day holiday.

But Dislis was told she had to fill out two tests, one in English and the other in Greek, to "authenticate" her story and nationality.

When she refused, the Spanish company that handles Aer Lingus flights in Barcelona, Newco Airport Services, removed the entire family's suitcases from the plane.

Both tests asked her, in each language, to read passages aloud, to present all the cash in her possession, to sketch a ladder and a triangle, to identify the spelled-out versions of four numbers correctly, and to describe their travel destination.

Dislis pointed out a number of faults with the process, including the fact that none of the staff could even speak Greek, so they would not have known what she was writing anyway, and that it is not uncommon for people to hold passports from a relative's home country and not be fluent in its language.

A policewoman who arrived at the scene told staff to "stop messing about and put them on the plane", said Dislis.

When contacted by the Associated Press, Aer Lingus spokeswoman, Gillian Culhane, said the airline was sorry for the situation, and that it had suspended the test as of 13 March 2012.

Culhane added that Aer Lingus had received the tests from the United Kingdom Border Agency in early 2011 as part of a British warning that illegal immigrants were increasingly using fake Greek passports, particularly through Spain and Portugal, to gain entry to Britain and Ireland.

Read more at the Huffington Post.