As British travellers wait to find out exactly what red tape will be imposed after Brexit, easyJet is adding to the confusion by misinforming passengers about current passport regulations.
The UK’s biggest budget airline told a concerned traveller that a minimum of six months’ validity is required for international flights.
But until 29 March 2019, British passports are valid for travel anywhere in the EU up to and including the date of expiry.
Jacqueline Pyle contacted the airline ahead of a short family visit to Spain in February 2019. One grandchild has a passport that expires in June 2019.
Ms Pyle was concerned about previous incidents in which passengers who had valid passports for European flights had been denied boarding.
In 2013, easyJet refused to allow Jonathan Rickard from London on a flight to Cyprus, claiming the two months’ remaining on his passport was insufficient.
In the same year, Roswitha Roseleur from Jersey was wrongly barred from a Gatwick-Luxembourg easyJet flight because her passport had three weeks to run after her return trip.
In response to Ms Pyle’s enquiry, an easyJet customer service representative wrote: “Your daughter will need a passport that has at least 6 months validity or more as their flight is an international flight.”
She was also told: “Please also confirm with your embassy for further information regarding travel documents.” It is not clear whether the advice referred to a Spanish or British diplomatic mission.
Ms Pyle told The Independent: ”It is worrying that they do not appear to know the EU regulations when they have so many flights to the EU.
“I would have more sympathy with a check-in agent who would take the decision to deny boarding if they thought the passenger had incorrect documentation and if no manager was available at the time.
“But for head office customer service to tell me they had checked and six months was needed is quite unacceptable.”
British Airways has also turned away passengers despite their passports being valid: in 2017, a couple at Heathrow were not allowed to board a flight to Prague. They were repeatedly refused a refund, and the compensation that was due, until The Independent took up the case.
Airlines are expected to act as immigration authorities and administer a complex web of passport requirements, often with severe financial penalties when they allow someone to travel with invalid documentation.
But until Brexit happens, the rules for a British passport holder heading for a European Union country are simple: so long as the traveller plans to return home on or before 29 March 2019.
The Spanish Embassy in London says: “You do not need a minimum of validity in your passport or travel document to travel to Spain.”
The Foreign Office tells visitors to Spain: “Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you don’t need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.”
The Independent has asked easyJet for a response.
In September, the government stopped giving an allowance for unspent validity when renewing passports, a move which incentivises travellers to hang on to their existing passport for as long as possible.
There are concerns that the change of policy, which was made in preparation for Brexit, could increase the number of people who are turned away from flights.
Passport validity: What counts?
Within the EU, a British passport is valid for travel up to and including the last day of validity.
The same applies to many non-EU countries within Europe, and to the USA – so long as a visa or Esta is obtained.
Many countries outside Europe stipulate a minimum period of validity, usually three or six months – often calculated from the intended date of departure, not arrival.
Those imposing a six-month minimum include popular destinations such as Egypt and Thailand.
After Brexit, it is likely that British passport holders will need three months’ validity after their intended day of departure from Europe.
One of the many uncertainties of leaving the UK is: what will happen to UK travellers who enter the European Union up to 29 March 2019 with less than three months remaining on their passports?
From 30 March 2019, they may technically be in breach of the rules.
How much hand baggage can you take on a Ryanair flight? Where should you be travelling in 2019? Can you claim compensation for a delayed flight?
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