EasyJet admits bungle after barring passenger with two months left on his passport

Questions remain about budget airline's initial intransigence over the issue

Travel Correspondent

Five days after Britain's biggest budget airline barred a passenger from a Cyprus-bound flight, it finally admitted staff had bungled in saying his documents were not valid. But questions remained about easyJet's initial intransigence over the issue.

Jonathan Rickard, 32, checked in at Gatwick on Sunday for a flight to Larnaca. He had paid £287 for his ticket, and carried a passport due to expire in two months.

The charity executive from London said: "I queued for an hour then was told at check-in that because my passport expires in August I couldn't fly due to Cyprus immigration rules."

Mr Rickard protested and tried to appeal: "When I was turned away at the desk I double-checked the details on my phone, including easyJet's terms and conditions. I had the correct documentation. No one at Gatwick or over the phone would even listen to my complaint."

"My fiancee was pretty angry as I was going to meet her at the airport in Larnaca, where she was flying in from Italy. Letting her down and missing my friend's wedding really added to the stress of it all"

After Mr Rickard's flight departed without him, he sought a refund. But he was told by easyJet's customer-service staff: "We never advise passengers regarding visa or travel documents requirements. Regulations are complicated and change frequently."

The last time that immigration rules for British citizens visiting Cyprus changed was nine years ago, when the island joined the EU.

Mr Rickard was also told: "It is the responsibility of the passenger to have the correct documentation for travel. easyJet will not be liable for any passenger denied check-in due to incorrect documentation. We can only recommend passengers to contact the embassy of the country that they are visiting for advice."

After The Independent took up Mr Rickard's case, the airline looked into the incident - and eventually issued a statement saying: "Unfortunately easyJet made an error in Mr Rickard's case and so would like to apologise that he was unable to travel. We will be contacting the passenger directly to remedy the situation."

Besides the original price of the ticket, Mr Rickard is also out of pocket for airport transfers and accommodation booked in Cyprus. He may also be entitled to €400 in compensation under European passengers' rights rules.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said: "From what we understand of the case so far, it would appear the passenger should have been allowed to board and this may be a case of denied boarding. If that was the case, then the compensation rights would come into play."

Kevin Clarke, an aviation lawyer for Bott & Co, said: "The intent behind denied boarding was to protect passengers against overbooking, but in these circumstances we'd be confident he would be successful."

Validity: What counts

Within the EU, a full 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.

* A "seaside special" domestic route has been launched connecting Southend-on-Sea in Essex with Newquay in Cornwall. The easyJet flight will operate three times a week until September, with fares starting at £29 each way.

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