Telegraph Travel receives a number of questions from readers each week. Below, Oliver Smith, Assistant Head of Travel, looks into the latest dilemma.
David Cannell writes…
I saw your recent article about a couple who lost more than £1,000 after being turned away at the airport by Ryanair despite holding valid passports. We suffered the same experience, although the cost for us was even greater: £4,000 plus another £1,500 spent making new plans for our Easter break.
I’d bought our holiday to Greece as a present to my wife Holly, who has been working in a hospital during the pandemic. We travelled to Stansted Airport on April 10 with our two young kids, aged four and six, and were due to depart for Kefalonia at 9.30am for an 11-night stay. Unfortunately, Ryanair refused to let us board, claiming my wife’s passport wasn’t valid.
We’d checked all our passports soon after I’d booked the holiday; her document was issued on July 9, 2012, and doesn’t expire until April 9, 2023. As I understand it, your passport must be no older than 10 years, and you need three months of validity remaining, when visiting Greece – so it should have been accepted. I’ve since confirmed this with the Greek embassy in London, which emailed me to say: “UK passport holders can travel to Greece as long as their passport is valid for at least three months from the date exiting Greece and no older than ten years from the date of issue.”
Out of sheer frustration, I drove to Luton and Stansted airports a few days later to speak to airline ground teams. Ryanair still wouldn’t budge on their position but EasyJet staff in both airports said they would have happily flown us on our passports. It is quite bewildering to be told by one airline you can’t fly on a passport and another that you can, to the same destination.
Hoping to get our money back, I communicated with numerous Ryanair staff in the days after we were turned away; their customer service was terrible and I was simply told to email its head office. I did so more than two weeks ago and am still waiting for a response. Once you add up the cost of the flights, Covid tests, airport parking, a car hire deposit, a villa booking for which we are not able to secure a refund, and a replacement holiday in Wales, the whole fiasco cost us around £5,500.
Oliver Smith, Assistant Head of Travel, replies…
Greek authorities require that passports are under 10 years old on the day of entry and must be valid for three months on the day you leave. Your wife’s passport (issued on July 9, 2012 – less than 10 years ago – and with an expiry date of April 9, 2023 – more than three months hence) was, and is, valid. You knew this, the Greek embassy knew this, EasyJet knew this, but for some reason Ryanair did not, and its failure to enforce these rules ruined your hard-earned family holiday and left you considerably out of pocket.
Despite several attempts, Ryanair declined to reply to Telegraph Travel’s emails on the matter, and you are still to receive a response. Your family is entitled to a refund from Ryanair for the flights, and would appear to have a good case for seeking compensation for other elements of the lost holiday. The CAA offers advice on its website about making a claim.
To some extent, Ryanair’s confusion is understandable. The EU is the only organisation with any interest in the issue date of your passport – the rest of the world is only worried about the expiry date – and this unique desire for documents to be no older than 10 years is what’s creating the uncertainty.
The guidance on the Foreign Office website states: “Your passport must meet two requirements. It must be less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’), and it must be valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’).”
So far, so good. But it then adds: “For some Schengen countries your passport may need to be less than 10 years old during your whole visit, and the three months at the end of your visit may need to be within 10 years of your passport’s issue date.”
Ryanair would appear to be acting on the assumption that Greece is one of these countries (the Foreign Office does not provide a list), and therefore believed your wife’s passport became invalid on April 9, 2022 – one day before your holiday was due to start.
However, the Greek embassy confirming this is not the case – which it did to you, and when contacted by Telegraph Travel – should settle the matter. Furthermore, the embassy claimed that these rules apply not just to Greece but to all Schengen countries.
If that is the case, the Foreign Office ought to update its website to avoid further confusion, and ensure Ryanair enforces the correct rules for trips to all EU countries. Until then, readers hoping to visit the EU but holding passports like Holly’s might want to steer clear of the Irish airline.