Ryanair has issued an apology following an incident at Luton Airport, where ground staff refused passenger Mark Starkey access to a flight to Spain despite having a valid passport.
Starkey, 51, has a UK passport issued on December 11, 2013, with an expiration date of July 11, 2024.
Under post-Brexit regulations, a British passport must be less than 10 years old on the day of travel to the European Union and have at least three months’ validity beyond the intended return date. Starkey’s passport met two conditions.
Despite going through security and screening the gate without a problem, a London airport supervisor claimed the document was invalid and denied him boarding.
In the statements of The Independent Starkey, an education technology executive, said he passed the security check and the boarding gate without a problem. He said, “The ground staff lady realized that I only had three days left on my passport, according to the 10-year rule. I informed him that I knew and that this trip was the last one before renewing my passport.
“He motioned for me to continue, and I started walking towards the plane. Shortly after that, he called me again, explaining that he wanted to check with Ryanair’s immigration people. He called them, gave my details, and kept saying, ‘I don’t think I can get on.’ He immediately hung up on me and told me that my passport was invalid.
“I told him I did not agree and asked to speak to a supervisor. He insisted that he was the supervisor and in charge. When I asked to speak to the Ryanair immigration person, he refused, saying that only he could do it and that they had determined that my passport was invalid. I was surprised that I was at a dead end. Afterward, I had to figure out how to get back to the airport. ”
Mark returned to his home in Buckinghamshire. The Independent was able to verify which passport was valid. Mark then booked an easyJet flight and traveled to Spain the next day on the same passport with no problems.
During the Brexit negotiations, the United Kingdom demanded that British passport holders be treated as “third-country nationals,” making them equal to travelers from many countries, such as Tonga and Venezuela.
In the months after the rule came into effect in 2021, both Ryanair and easyJet did not use the rules, inaccurately saying that a British passport would become invalid after nine years and nine months.
Due to the pressure from The Independent, both airlines have adjusted their policies to conform to Brussels rules, as has the British government, which has spread confusing information on the matter.
Commenting on Mark’s case, a Ryanair spokesman said: “We sincerely apologize for the mishap in which the handling agent at Luton Airport wrongly refused travel to the passenger. “The agent mistakenly believed that the passport of a passenger is not valid for travel in the EU.”
“All UK citizens traveling to the EU must meet the following entry requirements:
- Passports must be issued within 10 years prior to the date of arrival in the EU.
- The passport must be valid for at least 3 months from the date of return from travel within the EU.
“A member of our customer service department will contact the passenger regarding the error made by our handling agent at Luton Airport.”
In addition to refunding his plane ticket and covering additional transportation costs incurred by Mark, Ryanair must also pay $439 in cash compensation under European passenger rights rules.