Man stranded in Prague after friend picks up wrong passport – and makes it home to Newcastle

Exclusive: ‘I even failed the e-passport gate in Amsterdam and went to a booth and was waved through’

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 19 February 2019 14:12
Comments
KLM and border officials let man travel on his friend's passport

A British man is stranded in Prague after his friend picked up the wrong passport – and used it to fly from the Czech capital via Amsterdam to Newcastle, passing through four passport checks.

Steve Vincent, 44, a professor at Newcastle University, is unable to leave Prague until the British embassy provides him with an emergency passport. He was in the city for a short break with his friend, Allan Poole, a 43-year-old company director.

But because he has Mr Poole’s passport and not his own, Mr Vincent is currently not be allowed to travel.

Meanwhile Mr Poole, who needed to fly home a day earlier, said: “No one noticed or picked up. I only realised when I got home.”

The mixup happened when they checked into their accommodation in the Old Town.

“We’ve both got slightly old, slightly battered passports and when we went in to register they were swapped over,” said Mr Vincent.

Mr Poole left on Sunday and had a booking in his name from the city’s Vaclav Havel airport to Amsterdam Schiphol, the hub for KLM. But the passport he was carrying was not properly checked against his boarding pass on leaving Prague to ensure the names matched.

On reaching Schiphol airport he passed successfully through passport control. “I even failed the e-passport gate in Amsterdam and went to a booth and was waved through,” he told The Independent.

The passport check took place at the transit hub because he was exiting the Schengen Area; both the Czech Republic and the Netherlands are members, while the UK is not.

At the departure gate for the KLM flight to Newcastle, Mr Poole once again showed the right boarding pass and the wrong passport again to ground staff, and boarded the connecting flight.

On arrival at Newcastle airport, he went through UK immigration without being challenged. “At Newcastle control they looked at the passport and waved me through,” he said.

Mr Poole and Mr Vincent do not look dissimilar, and at the border force desks the name on the passport would not have been checked against the boarding pass.

But concerns will be raised that Mr Poole inadvertently went through two airport departure gate checks without the problem being spotted.

Meanwhile Mr Vincent tweeted: “Hey, @KLM – you let my friend travel from Prague to Newcastle on my passport (after we swapped by mistake).

“You shouldn’t have let him on the plane. I’m trapped in Prague. What are you going to do about it?”

Rescue plan: Steve Vincent has applied for an emergency passport

Mr Vincent must wait for the emergency travel document from the British embassy in Prague, price £100, before being allowed on board a flight home. He may then need to cancel his original passport and buy a new one.

“I’m thinking of setting up a #FreeSteve hashtag,” he said.

The Independent has asked KLM for comment.

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