Teen Booted From Flight Over 1-Centimeter Tear in Passport


This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

Jake Burton, 19, was thrilled for his very first flight, his mother, Rachael Burton, told Business Insider.

Jake, Rachael, and Jake’s father, Chris, were scheduled to board a Ryanair flight on December 28 out of England’s East Midlands Airport to Alicante, Spain, for an eight-day New Year’s trip in nearby Benidorm.

The family arrived at the airport, checked in for their flight, went through security, and finally arrived at their gate.

Excitement — and nerves for the first-time flyer — set in, Rachael said.

The flight started boarding, and when the family reached the desk to scan their tickets and have their passports checked, a Ryanair worker told Jake that his passport was damaged, Rachael said. He wasn’t allowed to board the flight.

A small tear in the passport prevented the 19-year-old from flying

On the first page of the passport, above the page that displays Jake’s photo and information, was a tear near the binding of the passport.

Jake’s passport had been issued in October 2022, and the family said they hadn’t noticed the tear. They believe it happened when Jake used his passport recently as his main form of identification after his wallet and IDs were stolen.

BI couldn’t find anything on the airline’s website with information about damaged passports, but a Ryanair representative told BI the top corner of the passport was also missing and said in a statement that “this 19-year-old adult passenger was correctly refused travel on this flight from East Midlands to Alicante (28 Dec) by the gate agent at East Midlands Airport as his passport was damaged and therefore not valid for travel.”

But the UK government says a damaged passport is “one which the customer cannot use as proof of identity because of its condition.” This can include laminate peeling, detached pages, “where the front, back or personal details page has been cut,” or damage like tears, rips, or bite marks, the website states.

An image of Jake Burton and the tear in his passport.

Jake Burton and the tear in his passport. Rachael Burton via BI

Meanwhile, Jake’s parents were still able to board the flight. Rachael said their son encouraged them to go on their eight-day trip without him.

“There was no way on this planet. I just couldn’t do it,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself.”

The family decided to look for other options. Rachael said the Ryanair worker told her other airlines might be willing to accept the passport. The family headed to another budget airline’s desk and were told the passport’s tear was small and fine to travel with, she said.

“They accepted the passport right away and said that they would try to get us on a different flight,” she said. “Unfortunately, there wasn’t any other flight available.”

Defeated, the family headed home. They first had to exit through border control. There, Rachael said, a border control agent also thought the passport looked fine.

“Her exact words were, ‘I’m so sorry for you because I think these passports are fine,'” Rachael said.

“For other people to say, ‘This passport is fine,’ that’s what’s frustrating,” Rachael said.

Instead of spending New Year’s Eve in Spain, they ended up having a quiet night at home in England.

Passengers in line at a Ryanair check-in desk.

Passengers in line at a Ryanair check-in desk. EyesWideOpen/Getty Images via BI

The family lost more than $1,500

Rachael said that altogether, the family lost £1,234, or about $1,560 USD, between flights and transportation to and from the airport.

This isn’t the first time a person has been denied boarding due to a damaged passport. In December, a couple had to cancel their honeymoon to Turkey after Turkish Airlines prohibited the husband from flying with a water-damaged passport, BI previously reported.

Ultimately, Rachael encourages others to double-check their passports before a trip and avoid using them as their everyday ID.

“With it being that small, I didn’t realize something like this could jeopardize you going,” she said.

For future trips, the family said they’d get covers for their passports.

“We’re getting him a new one now, and it’ll be under lock and key in a nice cupboard,” Rachael said.



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