A family's hopes for a dream first holiday together were dashed after a mum was unable to board their easyJet plane - over a post-Brexit passport rule. Charlotte Wilton was due to fly to Athens on April 16 with husband Matt and children Ronnie, six, and 18-month-old daughter Ciara, when she was barred from the flight.
Her passport, which is more than 10 years old, was valid for another five months due to the government’s old practice of allowing for unspent time to be added onto new passports. However due to new post-Brexit travel regulations, all passports issued more than a decade ago are now invalid for entry into the EU.
EasyJet said it was a passenger's responsibility to ensure they had the right documentation for travel but Charlotte, from Somerset, told the Mirror her holiday was ruined and the rules were not clear when she looked online.
She said: “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. 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’."
Charlotte said everything went smoothly after they arrived at the airport but their journey ended at the gate, where Charlotte said her encounter with the “awful” easyJet worker 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.
Eventually they were told they needed to be "escorted" out of the airport, Charlotte claimed. She added: "He made us feel like total c**p, like criminals."
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 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 the offer.
She said: “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. 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."
Charlotte said they were in need of a break following Covid and a number of health scares, including Matt recovering from cancer. He also suffers from fibromyalgia - a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body - and the family were still waiting for the results from a scan Ciara had undergone for a lump on her abdomen.
Charlotte said seeing Ronnie's face fall as they were turned away was "the worst part". The trip would have been their first holiday as a family of four.
What are the rules?
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 seemed likely 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".
Family hoping to rebook dream trip
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' have rebooked their trip.
She now hoped the airline would offer credit or refund their flights as compensation for her experience but easyJet 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."
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