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Laila’s Journal: I don’t exist!

By Laila el-Haddad

I don’t exist!

…well, at least not according to British Airways. I was attempting to enter in my “passenger details” and country of citizenship and residence on their website for a flight I have booked next month (from Cairo, 8 hours and a border crossing away, since the Gaza airport is incapacitated-much like Sharon, and the Tel Aviv airport is off limits to Palestinians), but guess what…I don’t exist!

Palestine/Palestinian Territories (territories, what territories?..maybe “Palestinian bantustans”)/OPT/Gaza Strip/Palestinian Authority..well, none of the above mentioned options are present, and since I am the holder of a Palestinian Authority passport (which one can only get based on having an Israeli-issued ID card, or hawia…) I am a non-category.

Needless to say, I was distrought. Where in the world is Laila El-Haddad (maybe with Carmen Sandiego, hee hee) if not in Palestine, I thought? Certainly not in Israel (as one of many customer relations reps suggested). I immediately sent an email of complaint to BA, humbly suggesting that BA add Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Territories, or Palestine to their list of countries, “since there are several million Palestinians who live here and unfortunately they do not have a category in your list.”

and several days later the reply I received was: “I am sorry, we are unable to assist you with your query via email…For further assistance, please call your general enquiries department on ba.com then SELECT YOUR COUNTRY from the drop down list.”

Um, ok, I realize you don’t need a phd to work in one of these posts, but i assumed it was farily self-evident from my first email that MY COUNTRY IS NOT LISTED in the drop down list. I explained this to “Diana” in a subsequent email, and was told to contact my “nearest general enquiries department” (if I was to take that literally, that would be Tel Aviv).

Instead I opted for customer relations in the UK. My “inquiry” was pushed from one phone operator to the next until I was finally patched through to web support, who, surprise, surprise, “forwarded my request”.

“When can I get a definite answer?” I asked earnestly. “Well, that could be one week or one month, we don’t really know. To be honest we may not get a definite answer”.

“And why not? What is so complicated or conroversial about adding my country or territory or even geographic location to your list?”

“I honestly don’t know” came the reply.

Well, I do. As my friend joked this morning, “there’s no definite answer, because we aren’t definite people.”