Djokovic Fiasco: Emirates at fault for letting Tennis star board flight to Australia?

Novak Djokovic’s chance to play at the Australian Open title was thrown into limbo when Australia denied him entry and cancelled his visa because he failed to meet the requirements for an exemption to COVID-19 vaccination rules. Top-ranked Djokovic boarded an Emirates flight to reach Australia and play at the tournament without the vaccination certificate and with a medical exemption from the Victoria state government.

However, the national border authorities didn’t accept the exemption, saying Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements. “The rule is very clear,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a news conference. “You need to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that’s where it’s enforced.”

Djokovic has now sought legal recourse to appeal against the decision, as the president of Djokovic’s native Serbia blasted the “harassment” of the star, who was detained overnight at Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. Questions have been raised about the approval of the exemption. Questions are also raised on Emirates for letting Novak Djokovic board a flight without vaccination certificate. 

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Is Emirates guilty?

Djokovic arrived at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport onboard an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER. The Emirates flight EK408 landed at 23:15 local time after 14 hours in the air and the operating aircraft was A6-EGI. Globally, the rule has been set that airlines will not let you board a flight without entry paperwork. Like other airlines, Emirates also follow the same rule and Emirates is in the firing line too amidst the blame game. 

However, experts claim that apart from vaccination certificate, medical certificate for exemption from vaccination is also considered as a valid proof for travelling. Not everyone in the world is excited to get vaccinated, while few have valid medical conditions holding them back from vaccination. The ace tennis player is considered one of the few anti-vaccination crusader and somehow got a certificate of exemption from the Victorian state govt.  

This lets off the heat from Emirates, who in their rightful manner, checked the approved exemption certificate as a valid document to board the flight. However, the authorities at the Airport found no solid evidence of Djokovic receiving an exemption without a medical condition, that led to the whole fiasco. 

Will Emirates offer Djokovic a free ride home?

Deportation is not a rare phenomenon, even though airlines are tasked to act as a first line of auditors. As per Simple Flying, in 2020, EU nations refused entry to nearly 138,000 non-EU citizens, while United States refuse entry to over 500 people every day. If the airline has checked all the paperwork and found them in line with the current travel norms, they are not liable for offering a return ticket in case of deportation (Like in Novak Djokovic’s case).

However, with deportation in sight, one has to travel back to the native/ originating country and in such case, the airport/ govt will bear the deportation cost. In some case, they present the deportee with a bill and ask them to settle it before making a re-entry. However, such cases are rare and usually passengers are asked to bear the travel cost by themselves. 

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