Beware of Greeks bearing passports. Until just last week, that’s the attitude that Air Lingus often displayed towards its Greek customers, especially Greek nationals flying into Ireland through Spain and Portugal. To try to catch people traveling on falsified Greek passports, Greek passengers were asked to complete a language test to prove they were fluent in the Greek language.
However, in January they made the mistake of forcing Chryssa Dislis, a Greek telecommunications executive who lives in Ireland with her family, to complete the tests in order to board the plane that was to take them all back home to Cork after a holiday in Barcelona.
In a statement to the Irish Times, Dr. Dislis explained her objections to the tests:
““In the age of biometric passports, such illogical and discriminatory ‘tests’ are entirely unacceptable. I was only targeted because of my nationality and no serious attempt was made to check that I was indeed flying back home, where I came from only six days previously.”
Dr. Dislis and her husband took pictures of the completed tests, which enraged the airline attendants to the point that they threatened to have the police take away her camera and destroy all of the pictures. However, when a police officer arrived, she sided with Dr. Dislis and her family. As Dr. Dislis put it in an interview with the Associated Press:
“Fortunately the policewoman who arrived was extremely sensible, defused the situation, and told the check-in desk to stop messing us about and put us on the plane.”
Though she eventually got an apology, she decided she had to go public to keep anyone else from having the same experience.
What’s the problem with language tests, anyway? First of all, questions about the validity of a passport are best answered by carefully examining the passport and other personal documents. Biometric passports are made to be extremely difficult to forge.
Secondly, a language test doesn’t prove whether or not someone has a valid Greek passport. You don’t have to speak Greek fluently to claim a Greek passport — you might have Greek citizenship but have lived most of your life elsewhere, for example.
Third, the airline employees can’t speak a work of Greek anyway. Which means, as Dr. Dislis put it, “The whole exercise was completely absurd. I could have written ‘Three Little Pigs’ on the form and they wouldn’t have known any better.”
Wanting to keep people from coming in on fake passports is understandable, but these tests are just silly and it’s good they’ve been stopped.