Air France and Argentina are in the news this week after an Air France crew was allegedly detained for failing to upgrade an Argentinian politician’s daughter. Yes, that’s right…you can read the details here.
The issue fascinates me. I cannot imagine any legitimate basis for being detained for hours because I failed to upgrade a judge’s daughter. Many commentators have blamed the “backward” and “corrupt” Argentinian culture for this occurrence, and that may be the case. But I learned tonight at a steakhouse in Hong Kong that both sides can play hard.
I’m in Hong Kong this week. Last night I found myself at an Argentinian steakhouse in Central. The manager was an animated fellow from Buenos Aires who immigrated to Hong Kong about 17 years ago. One of my colleagues I am traveling with is from Italy and the manager struck up a conversation with us, focusing on Italy’s recent elimination from the World Cup. Then he told us his own story.
It was June 1978 and the manager had just moved to France. He was new in the restaurant business and apprenticed to a renown chef’s restaurant in the south of France. Arriving in France, he submitted his final paperwork for a residence visa. His visa had already been provisionally granted.
Then, on June 06, 1986, Argentina faced France in the World Cup. Argentina prevailed 2-1. France was devastated. The next day the manager showed up to finalize visa.
“I’m sorry, your visa has been denied.”
Folding his passport and handing it back, the consulate official whispered to him, “This is for beating us in the football game yesterday.”
The manager was immediately deported, finding himself on the next Air France flight back to Buenos Aires.
Of course this could have been a tall tale. Perhaps. But I saw no reason for him to embellish this. For what reason?
And my point in sharing this is not that the two situations are analogous, only that we see the power of state wielded in unsavory ways in many different contexts.
The manager of the steakhouse in Hong Kong got the last laugh…sort of. He returned to France and remained illegally for seven years, before he was deported a second time. During that time, he learned fluent French and now has a great story to tell. He was not upgraded on either of his deportation flights back to Buenos Aires…
image: abdallahh / Wikimedia Commons