British Airways (BA) turned a familly of passengers with valid passports away from their flight to Austria after airline staff misunderstood rules introduced to tackle the migrant crisis.
Gary Preston arrived at Gatwick Airport with his two sons, his partner and her mother, for the family’s trip to the Christmas markets in Salzburg, only for a member of BA staff to refuse Karen a boarding pass because she did not have three months validity left on her passport.
“We got to the check-in desk, with some excited boys as you can imagine, and started to load cases on as the BA clerk checked through our passports,” Mr Preston told the Independent.
“She stopped on my partner Karen’s. She said something had come up on her computer she had to check. She then called a colleague and broke the news to us.”
The BA official cited changes the Austrian government had made to immigration rules that now required passengers to have at least three months validity on passports to cover the duration of a trip.
Mr Preston left the airport assuming the mistake lay with the Foreign Advice and that BA was correct.
However, after seeking advice on Twitter, the Austrian Embassy in London confirmed to him that the rules required for a passport to be valid for the duration of the stay only.
@garydpreston — it just needs to be valid for your stay. See https://t.co/Jet9HDaWrN @FCOtravel
— The Austrian Embassy (@austriainuk)
December 16, 2015
Mr Preston then tweeted: “Thank you for confirming. British Airways have a lot to answer for then for not letting us fly to Salzburg then.”
He had previously been directed to the Foreign Office website by BA staff but now had the backing of the Austrian Embassy. He asked BA: “Who can I call now to discuss how you will resolve this? Your staff at Gatwick misread guidelines and ruined our holiday.”
@garydpreston You’ll need to take your complaint up with gov.uk directly, Gary. We can’t comment on their incorrect information. Sorry. 1/2
— British Airways (@British_Airways)
December 16, 2015
It is thought BA’s confusion arose from the requirement for non-EU citizens to have at least three months left on their passports for travel within Europe. The relevant section reads: ““The validity of the travel document shall last until at least three months after the intended date of departure from the territory of the Member States.”
A spokesperson for BA said: “Our Customer Service agents work extremely hard to deliver a high standard of service to all of our customers, and to ensure that we abide by strict regulations set by IATA regarding each country’s entry requirements.
“We are very sorry that on this occasion we made a mistake. We are currently investigating this case to ensure that it does not happen again.
“We have apologised to our customer and will be contact to explain what happened.”
The Independent claimed it knows of at least one other passenger denied boarding under similar circumstances.