A woman was barred from boarding a flight with her husband and son after a member of Ryanair staff noticed that her passport was issued more than 10 years ago. Ana Tiganescu has six months left before her UK passport expires.
But the rules for passports have been affected by the UK's withdrawal from the EU. The University of Leeds scientist was set for a trip to Faro, Portugal, flying from Leeds Bradford Airport.
Since Brexit, passport requirements have been agreed with each of the member states. The majority - Portugal included - require travellers to have at least six months until the expiration date and to have been issued no more than 10 years ago.
On being told this at the check-in desk, the family were forced to make a split second decision about whether they'd go without her, only to be told their hold luggage would have to remain in the UK with Dr Tiganescu as she had checked it in, reports MirrorOnline.
The UK government's official travel advice webpage for Portugal states: "Your passport must meet 2 requirements. It must be:
- less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’)
- valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)."
The government has asked the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule but guidance 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," the page reads.
"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."
Dr Tiganescu, who is now spending Easter alone while her family holiday in Portugal, has written a letter of complaint to the Government. "This was a huge shock and very distressing for us all – especially my son, who didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to go with them," Dr Tiganescu said.
"I was left very upset, in shock, and humiliated, waiting for an unspecified amount of time, almost 2 hours, for a Ryanair steward to escort me back through security. This situation was deeply distressing. When I finally made it back out of the airport, I was in such a state that I couldn’t remember my postcode for a taxi home."
She fears many more people will be impacted by the rule. "I think it will be complete chaos this summer, when people begin travelling again for the first time since the pandemic. No one is going to look at their passports if they have a year left.
"The Government claims they sent a million text messages about this in 2019, but that was only to people who gave their phone numbers when they applied for a passport ten years ago. For such disruptive changes, likely to affect thousands of UK people, I believe it is the responsibility of the government to ensure the public are fully aware.
"Everyone affected by this rule change should have been notified individually that their passports would no longer be valid for EU travel, even if still in-date - this contradiction is very confusing." Dr Tigenescu has urged the Government to more effectively alert people impacted by the changes.
"This situation is not helped by airlines not being under any obligation to check passport issue dates at the point of booking – a simple change that would leave ample time to update documents if necessary," she continued. "I am aware that going on holiday is a privilege, compared to the situation in Ukraine However, this does not excuse a lack of preparation and foresight by the government, clearly evidenced by the widespread issues that people are facing, and which should have been prepared for long before the Covid-19 pandemic and current situation in Ukraine.
"The government have had since 2016 to plan." Ryanair and the Home Office have been contacted for comment.