South African Airways / / attitude of checkport official phakathi which prevented us to fly out on saa222 to sao paolo on 09/09/2018

South Africa

My colleague (dr daniel nyanganyura regional director, international science council regional office for africa[isc roa], pretoria) and I (dr richard l.k. glover, programme specialist, isc roa) were billed to travel on saa222 to sao paolo, brazil, en route to el salvador on sunday september 09, 2018. we cleared passport control and waited at the departure gate.
During checkport security check prior to departure, our authentic email documentation confirming that visa for el salvador has been approved for us to take in panama (signed by the vice minister of the ministry of science and technlogy in el salvador as well as the consul general of the embassy of the republic of el salvador in panama were rejected by checkport officials led by one phakathi who insisted on having the originals of the doumentation on a letterhead and signed — on a sunday, and considering the time difference between el salvador and south africa.
In the end, we were prevented from boarding the flight and our baggage which had already been uploaded were taken off the flight. we had to return home, dejected.
We lost our ticket and had to purchase a new one at a higher cost, we had to arrange for another airport transfer and we also lost our accommodation reservation in el salvador.
We had to work all night to get those documents, to the discomfort and indignation of those officials, stirring some political questions.
On our return the following day (10th september), after we had been cleared by another official, this same phakathi had requested another official (a lady) to come and rescrutinize our documents. that was after he had been busy disturbing other passengers over similar issues.
Meanwhile my wife (on my behalf) had contacted stefan ellis (operations manager of checkport security) who called the boarding gate and got the lady (apparently a superior officer) to find out what was happening from me. I then told her all phakathi did the day before and she asked him why he insisted on getting original documents when the same information was provided in emails (in these modern times). she further told him why he did not lodge a report after preventing us from boarding a flight as is routine. phakathi had no answer to these queries.

From our investigations from the other passenger (a ghanaian who works with a silver mining company in panama and transits through this route every two months) who phakathi was harrassing on the 10th, we got to know that this has been the ploy of checkport security officials to extort money from desperate passengers. he confirmed that on one occasion, a white lady had to painfully part with $200 before she could be "allowed" to board the flight.

Even though we had the premonition that phakathi was trying to get something out of us the previous day, our forthrightness did not allow us to bend to his ploy. moreso when we have not defaulted in any way.

We are aggrieved and embarrassed. we lost financially and our important meeting schedule for the betterment of science in the world was disturbed.
We are lodging this complaint for a thorough investigation into this incident with a view to preventing any such future occurrences. we are also making a request for a refund of the money we lost by way of buying new ticket, arranging new airport shuttles and losing hotel reservations. these are in the region of r20, 000. we are ready to supply further details to support this cost calculation.

South African Airways /

Oct 10, 2018

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