What was KLM thinking? The Dutch airline came under fire recently for having barred an 18-year-old indigenous Filipino woman from flying to Rio de Janeiro for the flimsiest but most outrageous of reasons: She was tagged as “not ready to travel” despite the full documentation she presented to airline personnel.

Arjean Marie Belco of Bukidnon’s Talaandig tribe, whose trip was sponsored by the nonprofit group and its partner Cartwheel, was at the Kuala Lumpur airport on July 20, en route to Brazil to take part in the World Youth Day celebrations, when a KLM employee identified as a Mr. Shawa stopped her at the check-in counter. The man was “doubtful” about the validity of Belco’s trip—and would not let her on the flight even after he was shown valid travel and supplementary documents.

According to the complaint posted by Belco and her sponsors on Facebook, Shawa also let loose with disparaging comments and questions—about why her ticket was “too cheap … and was just purchased yesterday,” why her passport looked new, and how much money she had, among other things. Belco was able to present bank documentation that she had sufficient travel funds; she also requested the airline to call her sponsors to confirm the trip. But she was still barred from flying. said it had contacted KLM before Belco’s ticket was bought, to confirm her flight details. So what would account for the airline’s action? thinks it was because a high-handed KLM employee profiled Belco and decided she didn’t fit his idea of a typical international traveler. “Arjean was denied her right to travel. This could also be perceived as a possible case of discrimination based on appearance, gender, ethnicity, nationality, age or social status,” said in its FB post.

Belco, a BS Education student who was on her very first trip outside of the Philippines, was eventually allowed to fly and is now in Rio. In a subsequent statement, KLM said it had gotten in touch with and had “made all arrangements needed to bring this to a good end.” It also said it “values all of its passengers,” does not distinguish “between age, gender, race, religion or lifestyle,” and accepts “passengers in possession of valid travel documents.”

But there was no explanation whatsoever for its exclusionist behavior toward the young woman, who was not only carrying valid travel papers but was also fully backed by her sponsors. Worse, there was no hint of remorse in KLM’s statement, or a smidgen of acknowledgment that it had made a regrettable mistake.

The absence of apology is appalling. This airline’s display of disregard for the rights of customers deserves the strongest rebuke. Travellers are also hereby forewarned.


Belco’s flight to Rio de Janeiro was delayed by two days. But mercifully she made it in time as the World Youth Day festivities went into high gear with the arrival of Pope Francis, who has been electrifying the world with the radical brand of simplicity and humility that he immediately put into practice in the staid and snooty Vatican.

The former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has brought to Brazil his “back to basics” spirit. His packed schedule includes not only high Masses for fervent Catholics in grandiose basilicas and appearances before tens of thousands of young faithful from the world over, but also a visit to a hospital to comfort drug addicts—a gesture reminiscent of the many acts of simple kindness he has displayed in the gilded capital of Catholicism, such as washing the feet of juvenile inmates on Holy Thursday, visiting poor migrants outside Rome, and getting off his popemobile to embrace disabled children.

Francis has also called on priests to live simpler lifestyles, declared in one homily that Christ’s redemption covered “even the atheists,” and greeted Muslims during Ramadan. For all these, conservative Catholics “have not been really happy,” reports the National Catholic Reporter. That’s the surest sign there is that this Pope’s campaign to return the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic congregation to the kinder, gentler fundamentals of its faith—to become a compassionate, all-embracing Church—is working.

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  • M C

    Just run a continuing worldwide boycott of KLM until they apologize and provide compensation to the person. I hope other nationalities will join the boycott. The best way to hit someone is on his/her pocket. Anyway, I have taken a KLM flight and their inflight food sucks. Second, their stewardesses are not the most friendly nor are they of the better physique in terms of curves. The next time anyone flies, just overlook KLM. Our travel agencies can help by discouraging people from buying any KLM ticket.

  • Ilihanboy

    Talking Points:
    1. KLM is Dutch.
    2.Many Dutchmen we know are weird.
    3. Many SVD fathers assigned to some SVD schools in the Phil like the University
    of San Carlos in Cebu are gays. Dont you dare me …because I can prove it.
    4. The SONA demonstrator is an embecile…is a Dutchman.
    5. KLM is Dutch.
    6. That guy Shawa at KLM Malaysia is either a Dutch-contaminated Malaysian or another weird Dutchman. Many will be pleased to meet him in person…here in Manila.

    • parefrank


      • Ilihanboy

        what makes think you are ??

  • allanbeltran

    we must also treat the same nationality, dutch, same treatment they gave to our filipino national. if that person is also a dual citizen, malaysian-dutch, we will also give them malaysian people some payback. dutch people are the most racist in the world, look at south africa before, they were under the dutch, zimbabwe and so forth..treat them the same when they come and be a tourist…

    • Simon Ward

      Zimbabwe, under the Dutch? I must deduct a point for that :)

  • allanbeltran

    this sh yawa nga tao ni linti dyud..indi lang siya makadto dire sa pinas k ako dyud kusi kusion iyang bayag..hmmmmppppp

    • Mamang Pulis

      pasagdi na lang bai….yaan mo yayain mo minsan mag nite cafe sa divisoria

  • parefrank

    We do not know how that lady was looking to the staff. As indigenous, she maybe looked too unsure and unsafe to them. Could be they feared she would not be allowed to enter Brazil, and then the airline would have to bring her back to Douala Lumpur at their expenses. At such events with so many people, Brazil Immigration probably has also instructed airlines tobe extra careful. By the way, this can happen in RP, too.
    Another question is, if and indigenous young lady could not be better helped with the money spent for this event. Besides, if it was her first flight and first traveling abroad, airlines willcare such passenger if he or she is declared so, like unattended minors etc. I wonder if the sponsors have provided her a safe accommodation in Rio, since prices shoot up in expecting one million visitord. And I am also sure that she could not speak and understand Portuguese, like Brazilians do not understand RP languages Such unattended journey could easy turn intoa nightmare.

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