Meg Gordon had hoped to jet off to Portugal with her husband Andy and their 16-year-old twins Jasmine and Dylan on Saturday. They arrived at Newquay Airport in Cornwall, checked in their luggage and got through security but a member of the ground staff noticed an issue with Meg’s passport moments before boarding the Ryanair plane.
And Meg’s holiday – the family’s first since the COVID-19 pandemic – was scuppered as staff pointed out travel rules had changed since the UK left the European Union.
Meg, who has now been left £2,000 out of pocket, said: “A member of the ground staff checked my passport she told me it’s out of date. I replied, ‘sorry I think you are mistaken it’s valid until April 2023’. ‘No it’s not’ – the ten years run from the issue date, in my case July 8, 2012.
“I was then abruptly informed that as the UK are no longer in the EU the rules have changed and I would not be able to travel. I was marched back through the busy departure gate in front of everyone while my family were still waiting to board the plane.”
Portugal is one of 26 European countries within the Schengen Area of free movement. Now countries in the Schengen Area are insisting passports must be no more than ten years old from the point of issue. This has meant many who think their passports are valid because they are not due to expire for some time may be denied entry to EU countries.
But mum-of-two Meg told Cornwall Live the airport, also used by British Airways, showed a lack of compassion.
Meg, who works for the NHS in paediatrics, said: “We were completely unaware of it. I asked how I got through check-in over two hours ago without it being noticed, plus I entered my passport details when I purchased the flights. They couldn’t answer.
“I was happy for Andy, Jas and Dylan to go ahead and said I would try and get to London to renew my unexpired passport. The supervisor then told me that was unlikely and abruptly asked for a decision. Subsequently our bags arrived very quickly and we were escorted out of the airport like criminals.
“There was no being taken into a side room and told, ‘we’ll get your baggage for you’ or ‘we’ll call Portugal for you and do whatever we can’ – it can be a discretionary decision by the destination country. No discretion was made, no suggested calls were made to immigration in Portugal, no help with rearranging flights, car hire, getting home, etc, and absolutely no compassion. I would hate anyone else to go through what we have just experienced. This is another Brexit/Boris ‘stitch up’ and shocking customer service from Cornwall airport.”
Meg’s husband Andy has written to the managing director of Cornwall Airport Newquay, Cornwall Council chief executive Kate Kennally, as it owns the airport, and Newquay MP Steve Double with their concerns. In the email, Andy says: “We were in a state of shock, distress and embarrassment. I am unable to truly explain how distraught, upset and devastated our family were and still are with the way that we were treated by the airport staff.”
Meg and Andy, who works in commissioning for the NHS, have lost £2,000 in flights, car hire and other holiday plans as a result of the misunderstanding.
She added: “My husband went back into the airport to make sure every base had been covered and the customer service representative said, ‘well, what’s up with the passport, it’s still valid’. She was completely unaware of it too. It shows it’s wide open to anyone’s interpretation.
“We just want to raise awareness to other people, especially in Cornwall, which will get hit the hardest by the cost of living crisis.”
Newquay Airport said its terminal team is liaising directly with the family involved as “we investigate further internally”.