A passport mix-up at the airport by a Fairmont Makkah Clock Tower HR representative was the start of a six-month struggle for one ex-employee.
Twenty-four year old food-service staff member, Mohammed Ayub, told Hotelier Middle East that a year on from joining the Saudi Arabia hotel’s preopening team he was offered a promotion to in-room-dining order taker, which he accepted.
An email announcing the promotion was sent him and department heads, and Ayub telephoned his parents to tell them of the good news, only to be told a day later that the promotion had been “cancelled”. Unmotivated by the circumstances, Ayub said he decided to move onto “better career opportunities”. He resigned with one month’s notice and booked a flight to India for August 1, 2011.
Ayub was asked to pay 2300 Saudi Riyal (US $613) to cover his “recruitment charges” and was told that his passport, which had been in the hotel’s possession since he joined the company, would be handed over to him at the airport by a member of the human resources team.
He reached Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport and met the HR representative who had taken care of Ayub’s luggage, exit papers and boarding pass and handed over the passport, leaving Ayub to “run and catch the flight”.
When mid-flight Ayub was given an arrivals card to fill out, horror struck as he realised he had been given the wrong passport. The passport he held was that of another Fairmont staff member with the same name.
Held in custody
Having landed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Ayub headed immediately for the immigration office to inform them of the mistake, and also telephoned Fairmont. He was held under the custody of the immigration bureau at the airport for travelling without a valid passport.
“My whole family was waiting for me outside the airport, they were crying for me. I was kept in custody for more than 13 hours before eventually being released,” recalled Ayub.
The authorities impounded the incorrect passport, and two days later on August 3, Fairmont delivered the correct passport to the Vice Consul, Indian Embassy in Jeddah, to be sent to India, Ayub said.
It took three months and many emails, telephone calls and visits to government bodies before he received his passport.
Lost new job offer
Ayub had planned on spending a few weeks with his family in India before taking up a new career opportunity he had been offered, and accepted, at a high-profile, luxury Dubai hotel.
During the three-month period, that job offer was revoked due to Ayub being unable to travel to the country without a passport.
“This incident has ruined my career. I lost my time, my job, my money. My family and I have suffered a mental trauma,” he said.
“Why do companies need to keep employee’s passports? I was left unemployed for four months. I was unable to take up my new job, even after having received an offer letter, visa and a ticket. I was failed because of this negligence. I have suffered a lot and I’m a victim of this process,” he said.
“I didn’t even receive my pre-opening certificate from Fairmont. It means nothing to them, but for me that would have been a token of my hard work and achievement,” added Ayub.
A Fairmont spokesperson told Hotelier Middle East: "As soon as the issue was identified, the hotel acted to rectify the situation, and apologised sincerely for any inconvenience caused."
“Fairmont Hotels & Resorts relies on a strong, integrated approach towards human resource management, ensuring the safety and well being of our colleagues at Fairmont is of primary concern. Fairmont has clear policies and guidelines to ensure maximum precautions are taken to uphold this and furthermore take proactive steps to ensure that colleagues are made aware of these policies and practices from the offset,” the statement added.
In mid-January 2012, nearly six months after leaving Fairmont, Ayub told Hotelier Middle East he had managed to find a new job within a leading hotel chain.