Lawyer/ Actress, Yvonne Okyere-Whalley, has sued KLM Royal Dutch Airlines at an Accra High Court for
an alleged racial discrimination. Yvonne, who is of Ghanaian descent, alleges that contrary to provisions
in the 1992 Constitution, International Airline Conventions, KLM’s own Mission Statement as well as
their Terms and Conditions of Carriage, KLM racially discriminated against her by treating her differently
to other European/ non-black passengers and further failed to provide a safe environment by putting
her personal safety at risk whiles onboard.
According to the Statement of Claim from the High Court dated 14th December 2015, the award-winning
actress who is currently practicing Law in Ghana, booked economy tickets from Accra to the UK via
Amsterdam with her husband. It is alleged that during the return journey on 15th February 2015, Yvonne
she was subjected to direct and indirect discrimination by KLM’s cabin crew member based on her race,
colour and place of origin. Yvonne avers in her Statement of Claim that the cabin crew member granted
privileges to European/non-black passengers while she was refused that same treatment.
According to Yvonne’s Statement, the cabin crew member disrespected her by continuing to pour out
the entire content of her bottled drink when she had clearly asked otherwise and walked away as
Yvonne was still talking to her. Due to this treatment, Yvonne complained to the Purser (senior cabin
crew member) who confirmed that KLM has a policy which restricts certain passengers’ choice of
beverages and how beverages are consumed when travelling to either Ghana or Nigeria ‘as passengers
on these routes had a tendency to take advantage of the drinks and take them home’.”
When Yvonne questioned the Purser about the criteria used when applying this alleged policy, the
Purser confirmed that there are no formal criteria used when deciding who should be refused the
reduced service as it is based on the cabin crew members’ instincts or perception. However, after
listening to what ensued between Yvonne and the cabin crew member, the Purser asked the cabin crew
member in question to apologise to Yvonne, but she refused to do so. The Purser, whose authority has
now been called into question, confirmed to Yvonne and her husband that a formal report would be
made of the incident.
Yvonne claims that the cabin crew member started talking to another white male passenger behind her
seat, and incited inappropriate racial attack on her, putting her personal safety at risk. She asserts that
the white male passenger then started attacking her verbally in clear view and hearing of other
passengers onboard and deliberately and physically obstructed her passage to the toilets. Yvonne avers
that other passengers who were appalled by the white male passenger’s behavior called onboard
security officer who eventually controlled the white male passenger and moved him to another seat at
the back of the aircraft.
Yvonne claims that KLM’s alleged new policy, the cabin crew member’s blatant act of discrimination,
and the attack by the white male passenger caused her much anxiety, emotional distress, fear,
humiliation and injury to feelings. The case continues in court.