Blog: West Country family treated like ‘criminals’ at airport due to Brexit passport rules – Bristol Live

A West Country family claim that they were escorted out of an airport departure lounge ‘like criminals’ as an EU ruling meant that the mum’s passport was invalid, despite the fact it was still in date. As a consequence of the ordeal, Meg Gordon has lost £2,000, and has complained that the airport showed a lack of compassion.

Meg, her husband Andy, and their 16-year-old twins, Jasmine and Dylan, arrived at Cornwall Airport Newquay on the evening of Saturday, July 23, to catch a flight to Portugal with Ryanair. The Cornish family were set to stay with Meg’s brother for their first family holiday since the pandemic reared its head back in 2020.

Meg told Cornwall Live: “We checked the bags in, had the passports checked and scanned – no problem, went through security and sat in the departure lounge and watched it fill up with other eager, excited passengers. Brilliant, the time had come to board the plane.

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“Andy, Jas and Dylan were in front of me, but when a member of the ground staff checked my passport she told me it’s out of date. I replied, ‘Sorry, I think you are mistaken, it’s valid until April 2023’.

“‘No it’s not’ – the ten years run from the issue date, in my case July 8, 2012. I was then abruptly informed that as the UK are no longer in the EU the rules have changed and I would not be able to travel. I was marched back through the busy departure gate in front of everyone while my family were still waiting to board the plane.”

When Meg got married, she changed her passport so that it would bear her new name, as many people do. At that time, people renewing passports were allowed to carry forward up to nine months from their old passport to their new one – this changed when Brexit rules came into force.

Portugal is one of 26 European countries within the Schengen Area of free movement. Now countries in the Schengen Area are insisting passports must be no more than ten years old from the point of issue. This has meant many who think their passports are valid because they are not due to expire for some time may be denied entry to EU countries.

Believing these details have not been made clear to British travellers, Meg added: “We were completely unaware of it. I asked how I got through check-in over two hours ago without it being noticed, plus I entered my passport details when I purchased the flights. They couldn’t answer.”

Meg, who works for the NHS in paediatrics, was then met by an airport supervisor, as there was not a Ryanair representative based at the airport, who informed her that they had to get her bags off, and that the family had to make a decision if the rest of the family were going to fly to Portugal without her. Meg said: “I was happy for Andy, Jas and Dylan to go ahead and said I would try and get to London to renew my unexpired passport.

“The supervisor then told me that was unlikely and abruptly asked for a decision. Subsequently, our bags arrived very quickly and we were escorted out of the airport like criminals.”

Meg added: “There was no being taken into a side room and told, ‘we’ll get your baggage for you’ or ‘we’ll call Portugal for you and do whatever we can’ – it can be a discretionary decision by the destination country. No discretion was made, no suggested calls were made to immigration in Portugal, no help with rearranging flights, car hire, getting home, etc, and absolutely no compassion.

“I would hate anyone else to go through what we have just experienced. This is another Brexit/Boris ‘stitch up’ and shocking customer service from Cornwall Airport.”

Since the mix-up, Meg’s husband, Andy has written to the managing director of Cornwall Airport Newquay, the chief executive of Cornwall Council, and Newquay’s MP to share the family’s concerns. The email written by Andy reads: “We were in a state of shock, distress and embarrassment.

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“I am unable to truly explain how distraught, upset and devastated our family were and still are with the way that we were treated by the airport staff.”

Meg and Andy, who works in commissioning for the NHS, said that they have lost £2,000 in flights, car hire, and other holiday plans as a result of the misunderstanding at the airport. Meg added: “My husband went back into the airport to make sure every base had been covered and the customer service representative said, ‘well, what’s up with the passport, it’s still valid’.

“She was completely unaware of it too. It shows it’s wide open to anyone’s interpretation. We just want to raise awareness to other people, especially in Cornwall, which will get hit the hardest by the cost of living crisis.”

Newquay Cornwall Airport told CornwallLive its terminal team is liaising directly with the family involved as ‘we investigate further internally’. Travel documentation requirements for passports and visas can be found here.

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