Award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has accused Delta Airlines of discriminating against Nigerian customers. In a Facebook post, Adichie, whose books include Americanah, Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun, took issue with Delta’s practice of requesting that customers produce a physical copy of their credit cards when checking in.
She began her complaint by reposting a letter she wrote to the airline in 2010, recounting an incident in which she had bought tickets for a flight to Nigeria for her elderly parents, but was forced to appear in person at the airport and present the credit card she had used before they could fly.
The airline, she said, “insisted that the credit card used to pay for the ticket must be physically produced, and the owner of the credit card physically appear, otherwise my parents would not be allowed to travel.” Her parents had already flown the outbound leg of the booking, and the credit card bill had been settled months earlier, she writes – saying it was obvious this was not a fraudulent transaction.
“I called and asked to speak to a manager and was rudely told that nothing could be done.
“I was shocked and unbelieving. My father, a 78-year-old diabetic who had an important family event to attend in Nigeria, was worried about missing his flight. I, unwell, was forced to dash to the airport as quickly as I could. I then ‘physically presented’ myself and my credit card.”
Her parents missed the flight.
Adichie says that, seven years on, “nothing has changed”.
The airline, she says, insists that it is policy to see the credit card used to book any flights purchased online or over the phone. However, she says, this has only ever happened to her when flying to Nigeria.
Even when buying tickets for family members from the US to Europe, Delta has not required her to show her card.
A spokesperson for Delta told The Independent:
“To safeguard against credit/debit card fraud, a ticket purchaser may have to show a Delta agent the credit/debit card used to pay for their flights along with a valid photo ID prior to travel.
“If the purchaser is not travelling, they can present their credit/debit card and ID at an airport ticket counter or their local ticket office prior to the passenger’s departure. Delta implemented this policy many years ago to help protect both customers and the airline.
“The policy is not unique to Nigeria and is to protect against fraud.”
In her post, Adichie expressed sympathy with Delta’s need to prevent fraud but insisted the airline must “treat each case individually and not lump all Nigerian travelers into one group of potential fraudsters.”
A number of Nigerian citizens have told The Independent that they have experienced similar problems.
One, who wished to remain anonymous, said that it had happened to them on more than one occasion: “Delta started doing that because some [people] stole credit card information and used other people’s credit cards to book flights. When the real owners find out, they just call their credit card companies to reverse the transaction and Delta is out of money.
“They found it most common that it happened with people flying to Nigeria, hence they started doing that.”
Another passenger, who regularly flies between the UK and Nigeria, told The Independent: “I have been asked [to show my card], as have my family members as black Nigerians.”
However, they said that while it was common for black passengers to be asked, they had never seen it happen to a white passenger. “I understand there are fraud issues but the approach should be consistent and all passengers should be asked, not just those with a darker complexion,” they added.