One of the UK’s biggest holiday companies has apologised after wrongly turning away holidaymakers from Leeds Bradford airport.
The European Union has strict rules on passport validity for travellers visiting from outside the EU. Passports issued by non-member countries are regarded as expired once they have been valid for 10 years, even though a UK passport might show a longer expiry date.
The European bloc requires at least three months of validity on passports to remain after the intended date of returning, but the UK government falsely asserts on its gov.uk Brexit guide that travellers need at least six months left on their passport to travel to Europe.
Angela and Robert Kennedy, from Bingley, were booked to fly from the Yorkshire airport to Ibiza on Sunday morning. But when they tried to check in, they were told that “Brexit changes” meant their passports had insufficient validity and they would not be allowed to enter Spain.
The couple were told they had lost the £2,600 Jet2 holiday, as well as the additional costs of testing before travel.
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Their passports were issued on 11 December 2011. While the travel documents carry expiry dates of next summer, Brexit has shortened their effective validity.
Under the Schengen area rules for “third countries”, which the UK has chosen to become, the passports are deemed to expire on 11 December 2021. The couple were booked to return to Leeds Bradford on 11 July, and clearly met this stipulation. However, the government states: “You need to have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland).”
Were this true, Mr and Mrs Kennedy would have been ineligible. But after representations from the The Independent, Jet2 has reversed its original decision. The couple are to fly to Ibiza, with the holiday company recompensing them for their additional costs.
Under European air passengers’ rights rules, Mr and Mrs Kennedy would also be entitled to £350 each for being wrongly denied boarding. But they are understood not to be pursuing compensation in recognition of Jet2’s acceptance of responsibility.
Another couple who were wrongly turned away from a Leeds Bradford to Palma flight, for a holiday in Mallorca, have also been contacted by Jet2 to have their holiday rearranged.
A spokesperson for Jet2 said: “We can confirm that we follow the entry requirements of specific destination countries, and we would like to sincerely apologise to customers that have been affected by the misunderstanding arising from this discrepancy.
“We are contacting them to discuss their options which includes a choice of a full refund or rebooking their holiday.
“Having reviewed the matter, we are contacting the FCDO to point out the discrepancy in entry requirements and to ask for clarity so that this does not cause any further confusion.”
For much of the time since the end of the Brexit transition period, the error was not relevant because so few people were travelling. But now that overseas holidays are becoming possible once again, holidaymakers are falling foul of the incorrect information provided by the UK government.
In response a government spokesperson said: “Now that the UK has left the EU, the rules for travel to Europe have changed. While the detail is set out on gov.uk, our simple message is that UK nationals should have six months’ validity on their passport to travel to Europe.
“We issue detailed guidance to carriers who are responsible for ensuring that the travel document meets the entry requirements of the country that their customer is travelling to.”
Tui, Jet2’s larger rival, say it has no reported issues of any customers denied boarding due to post-Brexit passport rules.
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