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Saturday, Feb 04, 2023

Brits blast airline staff for banning them over unexpired passports

Brits blast airline staff for banning them over unexpired passports

Caroline Smith (pictured with her husband Dan) is one of a number of Brits who have had their flights scuppered in recent weeks because of the post-Brexit changes

Britons are blasting pen-pushing airline check-in staff for stopping them from boarding flights because their unexpired passports were issued ten years ago and 'breach EU rules' - but Brussels says the passengers are allowed in and and the UK government 'is issuing the wrong advice'.

Caroline Smith is one of a number of people who have had their flights scuppered in recent weeks because of the post-Brexit changes, whereby the UK government says the EU requires visitors' passports to have been issued within the last nine years and nine months, regardless of their expiry dates.

But the EU says this is a strict interpretation of its rules, which has seen check-in staff for Ryanair and BA turn passengers away over the issue date - despite the EU Commission saying Britons will be allowed in if their passports are older.

However, the situation is fuelling anger at the added layers of bureaucracy post-Brexit.

It comes days after British expats in Spain were banned from driving after Madrid officials declined to convert their DVLA licenses to the Spanish equivalent – despite every other EU country doing so.

Mrs Smith, 40, had booked a flight from Stansted Airport to celebrate the anniversary as well as her husband Dan's 40th birthday on April 28.

She had already checked in online before arriving at the airport, where no issues had been flagged, but Ryanair staff would not allow her to board the flight.

Her passport expires in March 2023, but the issue date was June 2012 and so passes its ten-year deadline in fewer than the required three months - which presented a problem with the airline.

It came after Brian Williams, 82, was turned away from a British Airways check-in desk at London City Airport after booking a flight to Nice, France, for his wife's birthday on April 13 because his passport was issued in March 2012.

And retired chartered surveyor Ian Glover, 66, was turned away from the Ryanair's check-in desk despite also having a year left on his passport - because his passport was also issued in 2012.

Caroline Smith (right) and her husband Dan had to get separate flights to Ibiza after Ryanair said her passport was not valid

Ryanair is following UK guidance, which could lead to a large number of Britons facing travel issues this summer

The couple were travelling to Ibiza (pictured) to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary and Dan's 40th birthday

Brian Williams (left), 82, booked a trip to nice for his wife Collette's (right) birthday, but was turned away from a British Airways check-in desk at London City Airport because his passport was issued in March 2012

Retired chartered surveyor Ian Glover (pictured), 66, was turned away from the airline's check-in desk despite also having a year left on his passport

The current Government advice on travel from the UK to EU countries, stating that British passports must now meet the two requirements following Brexit

Mrs Smith's husband Dan husband flew to Ibiza on the original flight with Ryanair, but she had to fork out £400 for a separate one-way ticket with Jet2, who had no issue with the passport date.

And Mrs Smith said she now wants to highlight her travel horror to avoid a repeat of the situation for summer holidaymakers as demand for flights to the EU surges post-Covid restrictions.

She said: 'It was a nightmare. For me it was just something that I was completely oblivious to and I think it’s really important that people are aware of it because I think it’s going to catch a lot of people out.

'Obviously we’re starting to go into summer season, people starting to travel a lot more and what Ryanair are saying is that due to Brexit they’ve made a change.

'So because of that when I went in to check-in my luggage, because I’d already checked in online and no one at that point had flagged it at that point.

'My passport details say sometime in March, 2023, and before it was always like you need three months to go into Spain from your expiry date so in my view I wouldn’t of thought in a million years that my passport wouldn’t be valid.

'But since Brexit what they’re saying is they take it from the issue date. Now potentially if your passport has been renewed early which in my case it was because at the time 10 years ago we got married and I’d changed my passport because I wanted to change my name to Smith.

'So they then add on a couple of months to the passport because you’ve renewed it early. Because of that, that then means that some airlines, like Ryanair, are taking it from the issue date.

'The issue date for my passport is in June and they’re saying you need three months from that date.'

British passports were previously valid up to and including their expiry date, but following Brexit, government guidance says passengers planning to travel to any EU country except Ireland must now meet two requirements.

Non-EU nationals visiting Europe must have a passport valid for at least three months after the date they intend to leave the EU country. The passport must also have been issued within ten years of that same date.

Some countries are taking the date ten years on from when a passport was issued as its expiry date, even though some British passports will be valid for more than ten years if the passport has been renewed early.

Current Government travel guidance adds: 'We are asking the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule. Their guidance for Schengen border guards may not be updated until the spring of 2022.

'Until then, for some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the 3 months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.

'Check both the issue date and the expiry date in your passport. If you renewed your passport early, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

'This could affect the requirement for your passport to be less than 10 years old.'

It essentially means passports must have been issued no more than nine years and nine months ago from the date you plan to fly home from your holiday destination.

Mrs Smith was able to board a flight to Ibiza using Jet2 an hour after she was originally scheduled to fly with Ryanair after the airline had no issues regarding her passport.

She said the issue is 'very conflicting' and 'not super clear'.

'My sister-in-law works for Jet2 and she checked it on a system and it says it’s fine to fly and it’s valid so I went over to the Jet2 desk and they said ‘it’s fine, we’ll fly you’ which I did, fortunately', she continued.

'So it just doesn’t make much sense - in my view there’s something fundamentally wrong if one airline’s saying yes and the other is saying no, it’s bizarre.'

She described Ryanair as 'really unhelpful' as staff provided little information beyond telling her she would not be able to fly.

Mrs Smith's ordeal comes after Brian Williams, 82, was turned away from a British Airways check-in desk at London City Airport after booking a flight to Nice, France, for his wife's birthday on April 13.

He told MailOnline that he had to cancel his trip altogether. His passport did not expire until December 20 later this year, but fell foul of the rules because it was issued on March 19, 2012.

He said: 'I have travelled most of my life, so I know a lot about flying and the frustrations that come with it. British Airways have my passport details, so surely it should flash up telling me that I am not able to make this trip before I am able to go online and book it?

'I booked this trip because it was my wife's birthday and I thought it would be nice to go away as we had not been since before the pandemic. The check-in staff took my passport away, then came back and explained I wouldn't be able to board the flight.

'Tens of thousands of people have or are going to have the same thing. It is extremely rare for the expiry date and issue date to be the same. The thing is, I am 82, what threat do I pose? It is all ridiculous.'

Retired chartered surveyor Ian Glover, 66, was turned away from the Ryanair's check-in desk despite also having a year left on his passport.

Mr Glover had been due to fly to Portugal on April 25, but was told the issue date of his passport was not close enough to the end of his travel.

He had renewed his passport in 2012 when it had a year remaining, meaning the document was due to expire in April 2023.

He told DerbyshireLive: 'As I was going through the Ryanair check-in desk, she said that your passport isn’t valid.

'I said it was because I looked at the Government website and it said that it shouldn’t have been issued more than ten years ago, and it was issued in July 2012, which means the ten years is July this year, and it also stated you needed to have three months from expiry, and the expiry is the April 6, 2023.

'I’d read stories about people having problems so I’d looked into it but thought I was fine. What Ryanair were saying was that the expiry date is irrelevant, it’s the issue date that matters.

'What they’re saying is that ten years after the passport expires obviously, but they also want three months from the expiry of the date of issue. That’s not being made clear at all.'

And a 15-year-old fell victim to the confusion at Glasgow Prestwick Airport this week.

Parents Lisa and Neil, their 13-year-old daughter Lily and son Zak had been due to fly to Tenerife with Ryanair on Monday.

But were told after their arrival at the airport that 15-year-old Zak would not be able to join them on the flight.

His passport still had five months to run after being issued in March 2017, The Independent reports.

But staff explained that, due to Brexit, passports were now only valid for five or ten years from the issue date.

They were eventually told Zak needed six months on his passport prior to travelling to the EU and three months on his passport for the return flight.

Mr and Mrs Smith were flying from Stansted Airport (pictured), but ended up having to get separate flights to Ibiza

Britons pictured queuing outside the Passport Office in Victoria last week amid delays in delays in processing new renewals

But the EU's Migration and Home Affairs Department told the Independent that entry should be allowed for passengers travelling from the UK as long as the passport was issued within the previous ten years.

It says the condition does not extend for the duration of the stay, only at the moment of entry to the country.

The department added: 'To give a practical example, a non-EU traveller arriving on 1 December 2021 for a 20-days stay in the EU with a passport issued on 2 December 2011 and valid until 2 April 2022 will be allowed entry.'

However, some airlines, including Ryanair are continuing to follow the UK's interpretation of the post-Brexit rules, which could cause travel chaos for Britons this summer.

Ryanair has been contacted for comment.

Its current passport policy states: 'All non EU passport holders, travelling into a Schengen member country are obliged to ensure that their passport is valid for at least three months from the date of their departure from the Schengen member country.'

The Home Office told people to check the Passport office website for up to date information and stood by advice issued on its website when asked for comment.

It comes as British holidaymakers struggling to get passports ahead of trips abroad are expected to lose £1.1billion due to holiday cancellations, a study has claimed.

The Passport Office has already warned travellers that they should apply 10 weeks before going on holiday - and families are set to lose around £2,400 each if they cannot travel without valid documentation.

In 2020 and 2021, more than five million people delayed applying for a renewal as they were not planning international travel in the midst of the pandemic.

But now that international travel is back to normal, the number of people applying for passport renewals has surged and just under one million holidaymakers are at risk due to the delays.

Renewal chaos believed to be the tip of the iceberg has already left 700,000 applications still awaiting clearance.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was said last week to be 'horrified' at the backlog with a senior Government source saying he was ready to 'privatise the arse' out of the passport office.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told the Commons on Wednesday of two constituents who 'fear their honeymoon may now be wrecked because their passports haven't arrived, even though they applied in plenty of time'.

Home Office minister Kevin Foster said anyone heading overseas this summer should submit passport applications as soon as possible.

He added the Government is 'confident' it will not need to extend the 10-week target for processing requests.

French-owned private firm Teleperformance, contracted to run the Passport Office's contact centre, was also ordered to hire more people to ease 'unacceptable delays'.

The Home Office has a £22.8million five-year contract with the private firm to provide 'contact centre services' including a 'passport advice service for HM Passport Office'.

People trying to get in touch with the Passport Office are also being left waiting two weeks for urgent calls back, with an employee at the agency blaming 'terrible management'.


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