EasyJet missed six opportunities to admit wrongly turning away a passenger

Exclusive: For weeks Britain's biggest budget airline insisted that its misinterpretation of post-Brexit passport rules was correct

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 30 May 2024 16:13 BST
Vindicated: Eilidh and Jacqui McGeough, who were wrongly turned away from an Italian holiday
Vindicated: Eilidh and Jacqui McGeough, who were wrongly turned away from an Italian holiday (Jacqui McGeough)

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Britain’s biggest budget airline missed six opportunities to admit it had wrongly turned away a passenger.

In April, Jacqui McGeough was booked on an easyJet flight with her daughter, Eilidh, from Edinburgh to Naples for a four-day holiday in Italy.

When she tried to board her easyJet plane at Edinburgh airport, she was wrongly told by a member of ground staff that her passport was not valid for travel to the European Union.

Ms McGeough had painstakingly researched the post-Brexit rules for UK passport holders travelling to Europe, and knew that her travel document met both conditions:

  • On the day of outbound travel, under 10 years since issue date.
  • On the intended date of return, at least three months remaining before the expiry date.

The first opportunity to correct the error was when Ms McGeough appealed to a supervisor at Edinburgh airport.

But at the departure gate, the easyJet representative confirmed the original, erroneous decision to deny boarding.

“I tried to show her the published guidance,” Ms McGeough said. “But she didn’t bother to look, stated that it must be wrong and my passport did not have three months left as it would expire in May, 10 years from the issue date.

“I called the Passport Office from the departure lounge and they also gave me the same advice.

“At that point I thought I had completely misinterpreted the published guidance and left the airport.”

Over the next two days Ms McGeough established that both easyJet and HM Passport Office were wrong in what they had told her.

On 11 April she filed a complaint to easyJet, attaching a series of documents that confirmed the exact position for UK passport holders travelling to the EU.

Nine days later, Ms McGeough received the first of five refusals by email, each of them citing non-existent rules.

The essence of the response was that UK passports expire 10 years after issue, with additional months not recognised by the European Union. This is the same incorrect policy that easyJet followed until April 2022, when the airline finally agreed to fall into line with the actual rules.

But it appears that many easyJet staff still apply the misinterpretation.

Ms McGeough made repeated representations, supported by evidence from the Italian consulate andThe Independent. Each time she was turned down, she appealed – only for easyJet to repeat its insistence that her passport was out of date.

On each occasion, Ms McGeough, knowing her passport to have been valid, challenged the easyJet decision with supporting evidence.

On 20 April, Rohit from Customer Relations wrote: “Having checked your booking, and the screenshots you’ve sent with this email, I’d like to confirm that your passport was issued on 14 March 2014 and your date of travel on the booking was 9 April 2024. This confirms that your passport was issued more than 10 years ago on the date of travel, making you ineligible to board the flight.”

In fact, the passport clearly shows it was issued on 12 May 2014 and expires on 12 August 2024. It was valid for travel to the EU up to 12 May 2024, weeks after Ms McGeough’s intended return.

Rohit continued: “We always suggest our customers to check the necessary documents with the departure and arrival countries’ local authorities.

“If you have travel Insurance for your travel, we can provide you with an insurance letter to claim with your insurer.”

Travel insurance is never relevant in cases of disputed documentation.

Ms McGeough then tried contacting the easyJet chief executive, Johan Lundgren. On 23 May, Steve from Resolution Support wrote: “We have received an update from our team stating that your passport was due to expire on 12 May 2024.

“After Brexit, UK passport validity is now determined by adding 10 years to the issue date. So, unfortunately, we are unable to honor [sic] your request.”

Knowing this to be untrue, Ms McGeough made further attempts to convince the airline it needed to look again at her case.

On 27 May, Jodie from Executive Support repeated the mistaken interpretation of the rules: “We have received an update from our team stating that your passport was due to expire on 12 May 2024.

“After Brexit, UK passport validity is now determined by adding 10 years to the issue date. Therefore, you were denied boarding correctly.”

The following day, Muneer from Executive Support told Ms McGeough that the airline had “looked into your issue in great detail”.

Had easyJet actually done so, staff would have quickly discovered the passenger was right and the airline was wrong.

Instead, Muneer from Executive Support doubled down on previous misrepresentations: “With reference to the matter of your passport expiration, our team has informed us that it was scheduled to expire on 12 May 2024.

“Following Brexit, the validity of a UK passport is now calculated by adding 10 years to the date of issuance. As a result, it’s accurate that you were denied boarding at the airport.”

Ms McGeough made one final attempt to persuade easyJet to investigate the issue properly. On 29 May, Muneer from Executive Support wrote: “Post-Brexit, EU countries no longer accept passports issued more than 10 years ago.”

The unhappy passenger then contacted The Independent. Only when The Independent contacted easyJet on Ms McGeough’s behalf did easyJet admit its mistake. The airline told the passenger it had “successfully received feedback on the case”.

An easyJet spokesperson said: “We are very sorry that Ms McGeough and her daughter were unable to take their flight to Naples due to a misunderstanding at the gate of passport validity rules, which we are investigating with our ground handling partner at Edinburgh airport to ensure this doesn’t happen in future.

“We are also looking into why they received incorrect information in response to their claim.

“We are in touch with Ms McGeough to apologise for this experience and to reimburse their flights and any expenses, as well as provide the compensation that is due.”

The passenger now says: “I have had numerous emails from different members of the easyJet team, all of whom have allegedly carried out ‘detailed’ and ‘thorough‘ reviews before trying to fob me off with, I believe, deliberately misleading misinformation.”

Ms McGeough and her daughter appear to be entitled to £350 each in cash as denied boarding compensation as well as a refund of the fares paid to easyJet and the other lost costs of their missed holiday.

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