Couple banned from flight loses £5,000 holiday over Brexit passport confusion
Scientist Dr Bob Banks was due to travel to Milan with his wife, Gillian, for a long overdue break, but weren’t allowed to board their flight over new passport rules… and are up to £5,000 out of pocket
A couple missed out on their first holiday abroad since the start of the Covid pandemic after enduring passport hell at Newcastle Airport.
Dr Bob Banks was due to give a talk in Munich this week, after which he planned to travel onto Milan with his wife, Gillian, for a long overdue break.
As the couple prepared to board their KLM flight on Friday for the first leg of their journey, Swissport staff at the departure gate said Dr Banks’ passport was invalid and wouldn’t let him board the plane.
The confusion centres around rules introduced after Brexit, which say a passport should be valid for three months after your return from holiday and also need to have been issued within the previous 10 years.
Dr Banks’ passport had an expiry date of April 5, 2023, but was issued on August 12, 2012.
Dr Banks, 74, who lives in Durham, told Chronicle Live : “This is as much a warning to other people than just about how upset and frustrated we’ve been.
“My passport was initially looked at by a trainee, who was going to let me through. But a senior member of staff looked over the trainee’s shoulder at my passport and said it wasn’t valid for travel.
“The explanation was that due to the rule changes in January, the expiry date was simply 10 years after the date of issue, not the date given in the passport, which clearly stated its expiry date to be April 5, 2023.
“The Swissport staff would not be moved and we had no alternative but to return home,” he said.
“It was awful. We were both looking forward so much to our first holiday in such a long time, a chance to see old friends, and we didn’t even make it through the departure gates.”
The neurobiology expert still holds visitor status at Durham University.
He had been invited to give a talk at a prestigious science meeting in Munich this week, and decided to mix business with pleasure by taking Gillian, 74, too.
After the talk, where Dr Banks was to meet friends and scientist peers face-to-face for the first time since the Covid pandemic, he and Gillian were to journey on to Milan in Italy for a holiday. With flights and hotel reservations, they said the trip cost them £4,000 to £5,000.
Gillian said: “We questioned our sanity when we checked again the passport advice, and we firmly believe we are correct.”
A Swissport spokeswoman said: “ We understand how frustrating this is for this passenger, but when it comes to passports we have a responsibility to follow EU and airline policies.
“Unfortunately, according to those policies, this passport would expire in August so was not valid for the required three months when travelling to the EU.”
The company also included background information for its decision.
It said according to the EU, a passport is valid for 10 years from the date of issue, and that the date of expiry is less important for the EU than the date of issue. It also does not include/recognise extra months added to validity when passports are renewed early.
It stated that when travelling to the EU, the passport needed to be valid for three more months from the day you depart; the day Dr Banks boarded the plane to Munich.
It claimed that in the eyes of the EU, the passport expired on 12 August 2022, so was only valid for three weeks after departure instead of the required three months.
A Swissport spokeswoman added an investigation was ongoing into the decision to refuse Dr Banks entry onto the flight.
She added: “We are aware a passenger travelling from Newcastle International Airport to Amsterdam Schipol Airport on July 22 was denied boarding on the basis their travel documents did not meet airline and EU requirements.
“We are investigating the circumstances surrounding this decision and we will be in touch with the passenger to explain the decision once this process is complete.”