‘EasyJet made a fool of me – and then refused to admit passport mistake’

Exclusive: Passenger wrongly denied boarding says ‘for seven weeks easyJet continued to repeatedly blame me for their mistake’

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 06 June 2024 09:52 BST
Related video: Children play dress-up in new EasyJet campaign that tackles ‘outdated’ job stereotypes

In 2021, The Independent began campaigning for easyJet, Ryanair and the UK government to recognise the correct post-Brexit rules for British passport holders travelling to the European Union.

The passport must pass two tests:

  • Under 10 years old on the day of travel to the EU and wider Schengen Area
  • At least three months’ validity remaining on the intended day of return

But ministers and the two giant airlines ignored the evidence from the EU supplied by The Independent. They invented their own, more restrictive conditions for post-Brexit passport requirements. Both easyJet and Ryanair turned away travellers who were properly documented.

Missing holiday: Eilidh and Jacqueline McGeough were wrongly stopped from flying to Italy
Missing holiday: Eilidh and Jacqueline McGeough were wrongly stopped from flying to Italy (Jacqueline McGeough/Simon Calder)

In 2022, they accepted The Independent’s representations and aligned with the actual rules. They continue to comply. Sadly many British travellers are still unaware of the tighter restrictions that the UK asked to be imposed on leaving the EU; hundreds of passengers are correctly denied boarding each day because their passports do not pass one or both of the tests.

Inevitably, occasional mistakes are made and a properly documented passenger may be wrongly refused travel.

EasyJet flew more than 82 million passengers in 2023
EasyJet flew more than 82 million passengers in 2023 (Getty Images)

If a member of ground staff at the departure gate wrongly denies boarding, a manager should be on hand to double-check the passport and travel dates. Should they also make the wrong call, the airline’s customer service team has a duty promptly to investigate the passenger’s appeal and make good for the distress and expense caused.

Yet readers have contacted The Independent to say easyJet has compounded errors at the airport by repeatedly rejecting legitimate claims for recompense and the compensation stipulated by law.

Jacqueline McGeough was turned away from a flight from Edinburgh to Naples. She and her daughter Eilidh lost their holiday. Knowing her passport was valid for travel to Italy, Ms McGeough appealed six time to easyJet. But on each occasion the airline doubled down, insisting it was right and she was wrong.

She has now written about the whole sorry saga.

“Everyone makes mistakes – and that’s OK. But I now know that easyJet have been making the same mistake for over two years: turning away passengers with valid passports.

On 9 April, the ground staff at Edinburgh didn’t just stop me from boarding their plane, they completely ruined our holiday plans, humiliated us, and belittled me when I tried to point out the published passport validity guidance.

They were, after all, the travel experts and I was just a foolish passenger who had clearly got it wrong. We were so disappointed, I felt that I had let my daughter down as it was me who had clearly got the passport rules so wrong, even though I had read them several times before booking our flights.

I was left wondering how I could have been so stupid. We spent a miserable night in an Edinburgh hotel when we should have exploring Naples.

I now know that I wasn’t so stupid. But the weeks that followed have been needlessly stressful, upsetting and difficult. Having established that my passport had been valid for travel, I naively thought that when I contacted the customer service team, they would recognise the mistake, apologise and reimburse me for the losses incurred without question.

The pair should have been strolling the colourful streets of Naples – instead they spent an unhappy night in the Scottish capital
The pair should have been strolling the colourful streets of Naples – instead they spent an unhappy night in the Scottish capital (Getty Images)

I was wrong. For seven weeks easyJet continued to repeatedly blame me for their mistake, insisting they had ‘thoroughly investigated’.

I spent hours collating and submitting evidence that should have clarified the rules. This including the confirmation I had received from the Italian Consulate that my passport had been valid and articles from The Independent in which easyJet had acknowledged the same error back in 2022, offering assurances it would be addressed.

Despite this, the customer service team still continued to hold their position insisting I was at fault.

I even tried emailing the chief executive, Johan Lundgren, asking him to intervene on my behalf.

After seven weeks of ‘deny, deny, deny’ it took a few short hours for easyJet to do a massive U-turn after I reached out to Simon Calder asking if he could help me.

EasyJet’s initial error and the indefensible treatment I have received from the customer service team over the last two months reflects very badly on an airline that boasts of ‘providing a great service to and from Europe’s top airports’.

I arrived at Edinburgh airport on 9 April looking forward to my flight – and, as easyJet finally admitted, seven weeks later, properly documented to travel.

I did not ask for any of this distress and inconvenience to happen to me. I would much rather have enjoyed the holiday my daughter and I had been so looking forward to.”

Airline apology for ‘not getting this right’

In response, an easyJet spokesperson said: “We are very sorry for not getting this right for Ms McGeough at the airport and in the subsequent responses we provided from our customer service team.

“EasyJet carries 100 million passengers every year which means our ground handling agents serve up to 300,000 passengers every day, travelling between over 30 countries and carrying a diverse range of travel documentation.

“Since 2022, we have incorporated additional processes to guard against mistakes relating to documentation validity and aim to continuously improve our processes, and we absolutely acknowledge that this complaint was not managed as it should have been.”

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