Passenger £1,000 out of pocket and barred from flights due to novelty passport stamp

Simon Calder
·3-min read
Emergency call: the replacement passport that allowed Tina Sibley to travel to Thailand: Tina Sibley
Emergency call: the replacement passport that allowed Tina Sibley to travel to Thailand: Tina Sibley

A British traveller heading to Thailand for a wedding is £1,000 poorer and has suffered a “total travel nightmare” because of a stamp in her passport celebrating a visit to Machu Picchu.

Tina Sibley was in Madrid and tried to check in as normal for a Qatar Airways flight from the Spanish capital via Doha to Phuket.

But she was denied boarding - the airline’s check-in staff said the Thai authorities would turn her away because of the stamp on page six of her British passport.

It was applied by a Peruvian official to commemorate her visit to the ancient Inca temple complex. She also had a stamp from the national park of Vinicunca.

“I thought the guy was having a laugh,” Ms Sibley told The Independent. “But apparently not. Eventually I had to give up on my flight and get a hotel.”

Next day, she went to the British Embassy in Madrid to get a replacement passport.

“They heard my plight and said that it was rubbish. My passport was valid and as such they couldn’t issue a replacement.

“They told me to explain that to Qatar Airways, and if they wouldn’t take me, go with another airline.”

Expensive stamp: the Machu Picchu souvenir that cost Tina Sibley £1,000 (Tina Sibley)
Expensive stamp: the Machu Picchu souvenir that cost Tina Sibley £1,000 (Tina Sibley)

She returned to Madrid airport, but all the customer services desks were closed. So instead she called Qatar Airways.

“They said they would find out and get back to me. Hours and hours passed before I heard from them.

“Eventually the Emirates desk opened and I explained the situation to them and asked if they would take me. They said they would find out from Thai Immigration.

“Then the Qatar desk opened. They insisted I could not travel. Eventually Emirates also said the same.”

Ms Sibley returned to the British Embassy to find it closed, but eventually talked to an official who explained about the emergency passport procedure. The red tape was accelerated and she was told to collect the document next morning.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways said she must pay an additional €600 (£525) to board the flight.

Eventually she reached the Thai island, and reported: “I finally have a happy ending. I’ve got into Thailand and will be in time for the wedding tomorrow. But it's been an expensive and stressful couple of days.”

Ms Sibley estimates the incident cost her £1,000 in extra costs, as well as missing two days in Thailand.

“All is well in the end for me. But it was a stressful and expensive lesson. People need to be aware of these potential problems with fun passport stamps.”

The Foreign Office warns: “Entry to Thailand is normally refused if you have a passport which is damaged or has pages missing.” But it makes no mention of novelty stamps.

Qatar Airways and the Thai Embassy in London have declined to comment despite repeated requests by The Independent.

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