A family have been forced to miss their first holiday together after passport rules left their vacation plans in tatters.
Charlotte Wilton, 36, was shocked to be barred from boarding her flight to Athens by easyJet staff. She was traveling with her speech from her coach, her husband Matt, her six-year-old Ronnie and her 18-month-old daughter Ciara, when she was told she could not board.
Her passport, which was still valid for another five months, was over 10 years old – which means she cannot enter the EU under new post-Brexit rules.
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EasyJet said Charlotte will not be eligible for compensation as it is a passenger’s responsibility to ensure they had the right documentation for travel, The Mirror reports.
Charlotte, from Somerset, has spoken about her disappointment after she was forced to tell her six-year-old son his ‘dream’ holiday to Greece was canceled – saying his face was the “worst part” of the incident.
“We got to the front of the queue, and Ronnie had everything checked first and ran straight onto the boarding bridge as he was so excited to get on the plane,” she said.
“My husband took my infant from me, had everything checked and was about to go through, but then the guy looked at mine, showed it to his manager and the guy came over and told me ‘you can’t board the plane – your passport has run out’.”
The trip, which was the first since Ciara had been born and the first time Ronnie had left the country, came at a time when the family was in need of a break and a re-group, Charlotte said, following Covid and a number of health scares.
Matt, 49, was recovering from a battle with cancer and also suffers from fibromyalgia – a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body – while they were still waiting for the results from a scan Ciara had undergone for a lump that had developed on her abdomen.
Upon their arrival at the airport, Charlotte said everything went fairly smoothly – the family checked in, went through security and had some downtime before heading to the gate for departure.
But their journey ended at the gate, where Charlotte said her encounter with the “awful” easyJet staffer who denied her boarding, left her “very upset”.
The family was ushered back to a departure gate where they waited “a good half an hour” for an easyJet representative to come and meet them, only to eventually be told they needed to be “escorted” out of the airport, Charlotte claimed.
“He made us feel like total c**p, like criminals,” she added.
The family was told by a different easyJet representative before leaving the airport that they could shift their flights to another date, at a cost of £100 per person, but they had to pick the dates there and then.
Not knowing how long it would take her to get a new passport, or whether her husband would be able to get the time off work, Charlotte said they were forced to decline this offer.
They went back to Charlotte’s dad’s house, where she began to investigate what had gone wrong and found accounts of others who’d had similar experiences.
“If I had known – if it had been clear online that anyone whose passport had gone past that ten-year date would not be able to travel – then I obviously would have applied for a new passport earlier,” she said.
“That was the first thing that upset me – it wasn’t clear anywhere online as to what the rules were. And the second thing was the very poor way in which the situation was handled at the airport.”
The new rules surrounding extensions had caught some like Charlotte out while many others had been wrongly barred from boarding their flights due to their airline’s interpretation of a rule stating a UK passport must be valid for three months upon their departure.
It likely seemed issues had been caused by conflicting advice on the UK government website, which reads: “For some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the three months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.”
The advice also states: “We are asking the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule.”
Charlotte had emailed the hotel the family were booked to stay in, and while the family had lost money on their first night of accommodation, they had the money from the rest of their accommodation put on hold, for when they’ve re-booked the trip.
She now hoped the airline would offer credit or refund their flights as compensation for her experience.
But an easyJet representative said: “EasyJet follows current government rules on passport validity, as set out by governments where we operate.
“Unfortunately we were unable to allow Ms Wilton to travel with us from Bristol to Athens as she did not have the correct valid documentation for her flight.
“To help customers prepare for their flight, we remind customers during booking and before they travel via email to ensure they are aware of the requirements for the destination they are flying to and it is customers’ responsibility to ensure they have the correct, valid documentation for travel.”