Tui wrongly tells 79-year-old holidaymaker she cannot travel

Tui wrongly tells 79-year-old holidaymaker she cannot travel

Two holidaymakers from Sussex, both aged 79, should have woken up on Monday morning on the first full day of their 10-day spring holiday in Tenerife.

Instead, after the travel giant Tui repeatedly misrepresented post-Brexit passport rules, Anne and Brian are at home in Hastings.

The couple – who wish to be known only by their first names – both have passports that are valid for their planned trip. But when they called in at the Hastings branch of Tui on Friday morning to go through the check-in process ahead of their flight on Sunday, they were wrongly told Anne’s passport was not valid for the trip.

Staff at the travel agency said nothing could be done and that they had lost the £1,700 cost of their holiday; another Tui representative later wrongly suggested that travel insurance might provide compensation.

In 2021, The Independent informed all the big UK airlines and holiday companies – including Tui – of the precise passport validity rules for British travellers to the European Union after Brexit:

  • On the day of entry to the EU, no more than 10 years since the issue date.

  • On the day of exit from the EU, at least three months remaining before the expiry date.

The evidence supplied by the Migration and Home Affairs Department of the European Commission made clear that the two conditions are independent of one another.

But the Tui travel agent said, incorrectly, that extra months added to a passport beyond 10 years do not count and that therefore they could not be used after nine years and nine months. With no possibility of obtaining a new passport in the time available, Anne was told she could not fly to the Spanish island.

The Independent has seen a copy of Anne’s passport and has verified that it is valid for travel outbound to anywhere in the European Union up to 25 April 2023 for a stay of up to 90 days, easily covering the duration of the holiday.

On Saturday, Anne’s daughter, Nicola, called Tui’s customer service line on the couple’s behalf to challenge the decision.

“The girl on the phone told us that due to Brexit, the extra months on any passport were now invalid,” Nicola said.

“She wasn’t interested in hearing our evidence and kept on saying it was Brexit and we should Google it.”

Nicola then contacted The Independent for confirmation that the couple could legally travel. Armed with that evidence, she called the customer service line on Saturday afternoon.

After a half-hour wait, an agent told her: “I’ve spoken to someone from our customer operations team who have also advised that the passport would not be valid.

“I can only go by what they say, and the retail store also spoke to a different department who advised the same.”

The agent also added the irrelevant suggestion: “It sounds like the lead passenger will need to speak to their insurance for this.”

In cases when holidaymakers do not have appropriate documentation, travel insurance will not pay out.

After this latest exchange, the couple reluctantly decided they did not wish to risk going to Gatwick despite knowing their passports were valid.

The flight was with Tui, which appeared to be applying its own mistaken rules across the company. So they concluded they would be turned away at the airport.

Late on Saturday evening, after The Independent contacted Tui on their behalf, Anne and Brian were called by customer operations at the company to be told they were “clear to travel”.

But by then they had accepted that they would not be able to take the holiday.

A spokesperson for Tui said: “Our teams are trained to provide customers with factual and accurate information, on this occasion we did not do that. We are very sorry for the distress and inconvenience this has caused.

“A full investigation is underway to establish the root cause of the incorrect information given and further training on passport validity will be given to all of our retail and call centre colleagues.

“Once again we would like to express our sincere apologies for the incorrect information given.”

Tui has agreed to refund the couple in full, including their pre-booked parking, and has offered a £200 voucher for a future holiday.

The couple’s experience, with different parts of the organisation insisting wrongly that the passport was not valid, suggests there may be many other Tui customers who have also been wrongly denied boarding.

The Independent has asked Tui if it will make efforts to check whether it has inadvertently denied boarding to others.