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Airlines block Iranians from US-bound flights

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Reports say several US-bound Iranians have been stranded in Vienna International Airport as a result of a travel ban recently approved by US President Donald Trump. (File Photo)

A controversial travel ban recently approved by US President Donald Trump against Iranians – as well as six other Muslim nations – has already trapped travelers at airports. 

Reports are emerging that airlines are refusing to allow US-bound passengers of target countries from boarding planes. This has at least in one instance left three Iranian nationals stranded at Vienna airport for several nights.

The domestic media in Vienna reported that the Iranians – a young woman and an elderly couple - had to spend two nights on the benches in the transit area of the airport. 

Peter Their, a spokesman for Austrian Airlines, was quoted by media as saying that the Iranians had arrived from the Iranian central city of Isfahan on Saturday "and only learned in Vienna from the security officials that they cannot continue to the US".

A report by AFP later said  the passengers had agreed on Monday afternoon to return home on the next available flight. "The passengers have decided not to wait any longer for the connecting flight to USA," the news service quoted Their as saying.  

Trump’s executive order, issued on January 27, blocked the entry of citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen into the United States for 90 days. It also suspended entry of all refugees for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely.

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Other indications emerged in Iran’s domestic media that Iranian passengers bound for the US were already having troubles purchasing plane tickets.  

Iran’s IRNA news agency reported that airlines like Lufthansa and Qatar Airways were only selling tickets to those who had American passports. Some including British Airways and Emirates Airlines were continuing to sell tickets but informed the passengers that they were themselves responsible for the subsequences of the US travel ban.   

On a related front, two travel agencies told AFP they had been instructed by Etihad Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines not to sell US tickets or allow Iranians holding American visas to board US-bound flights.

An Iranian studying in California who was visiting home said Saturday that she could not return because her ticket had been cancelled under the new restrictions.

"I had a ticket for Turkish Airlines on February 4, but it has been cancelled," the girl who did not wish to be identified told AFP.


Also, Dutch flag carrier KLM said in an announcement that it had stopped seven passengers from boarding its flights, five of whom it had been able to contact before departure.

The identities of the seven, their countries of origin and destinations were not given.

"We would have liked to have had them fly with us, but it would not have made much sense because they would have been denied entry" to the United States, KLM spokesman Manel Vrijenhoek told AFP.

Furthermore, Air France announced in a statement that it had prevented 15 passengers from boarding US-bound flights “because they would have been refused entry”.

An airline spokeswoman told AFP that the passengers were taken back to their point of departure or otherwise taken care of. She would not provide the passengers’ names, nationalities or other details, the report added. 

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