Four Kenyans sue KLM and Air France after deportation while on holiday

Thursday July 11 2019


International passengers arrive at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport's (JKIA),on November 28, 2016. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

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Four Kenyans want two European carriers, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Air France, compelled to compensate them for their deportation while on a holiday trip last year.

Paul Kinuthia Kagwe, Grace Ngina Kinuthia, Priscilla Nduku Wangui and Erastus Ndegwa Wangui, were arrested and deported by French immigration officials at the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, France.

They had booked four return tickets last September on the KLM website, intending to take a holiday trip to Canada and later obtained the necessary Canadian visas.

They left Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on October 6, 2018, at about midnight and arrived at the Charles De Gaulle Airport airport in France the following morning.

They had a six-hour 15 minutes layover and sat at the airport Terminal 2E waiting for the onward flight to Canada, which they boarded without a hitch.

Trouble started while they were returning from Canada on October 15, 2018, when they landed in Paris aboard an Air France flight.


Schengen visa

"Remarkably, no airline officials mentioned anything about the requirement of a Schengen Visa while we were on transit in France travelling onward to Toronto, Canada.

This fact remains unexplained when we considered the tribulations that befell us on the return journey," the four have argued in court papers.

They had a two-and-a-half hour wait before boarding for their departure to Amsterdam.

When they presented their passports at one of the terminals where they had been referred to by a security officer, their trip was terminated by French immigration officials on the grounds that they did not have Schengen visas.

Their passports were confiscated and they were detained in a holding cell at the airport for over eight hours without food, water or toilet facilities.

They called KLM in Paris for assistance but they were directed to get visas from the Kenyan embassy. They claim that they were not engaged long enough to enable them explain their troubles.

They were later deported from France on October 17, 2018 aboard a Kenya Airways flight following intervention of family friends and Kenyan immigration and Kenya Airways officials.

They now blame KLM and Air France for not having informed them of the Schengen (European Union area) visa requirement for any transit layovers in France.

The two airlines, however, want the suit against them dismissed, saying it ought to have been lodged in France where the alleged mistreatment of the aggrieved passengers occurred.

According to the two airlines, the issue in dispute arose in Paris and the Kenyan High Court lacks jurisdiction to hear and determine the case.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is incorporated in the Netherlands, while Air France is incorporated in France.

The lawyer for the two firms argues that the plaintiffs did not seek permission from the court allowing them to serve the two airlines in their respective countries.

"The act of State doctrine precludes the courts of this country from inquiring into the validity of the public acts of a recognised foreign power committed within its jurisdiction," Mr Mwihuri argues in court papers.

However, the four Kenyans argue that the airlines have misconstrued the facts of the matter, given the case lodged is not on arrest but breach of contract. They argue the contractually legally-binding transaction was entered into in Kenya.