Woman loses £2,000 after being hauled off flight to Tenerife due to Brexit passport changes

·4-min read
Woman loses £2,000 after being hauled off flight to Tenerife due to Brexit passport changes

A woman has told of her frustration after being removed from a flight to Spain and having her New Year’s Eve “ruined” over a little-known change to post-Brexit passport rules.

Aya Shillingford, 36, said she was “devastated” after staff escorted her from her Jet2 flight to Tenerife on Thursday morning after claiming her passport had been issued over ten years ago - meaning she could not travel to the EU under new post-Brexit guidelines.

She had planned to spend New Year’s Eve on the island with her partner Gareth and a group of friends – but now faces losing nearly £2,000 after being forced to cancel the holiday at the last minute.

Ms Shillingford told the Standard she had planned to fly out with Jet2 from Stansted airport at 9.50am on Thursday morning and return on January 8.

After making it through security and boarding the plane, she was told her passport was invalid and escorted off the flight.

The Jet2 official said she could not fly to the EU as her passport had been issued more than ten years ago – despite its expiry date being June 28, 2022.

“We had arrived at the airport in good time, made it through security and dropped off our bags. Two members of staff - at security and at the gate for the flight - had already checked our passports and not raised any issue,” Aya said.

“But when we got on the flight suddenly there was a big commotion. A Jet2 staff member took my passport and said ‘I’m sorry but you can’t fly, this was issued over ten years ago’.

“Then we were frog-marched off the plane and back to the airport. Everyone was staring at us.”

Aya and Gareth have had to cancel their New Year’s Eve plans (Aya Shillingford)
Aya and Gareth have had to cancel their New Year’s Eve plans (Aya Shillingford)

Back at the gate, another member of Jet2 staff told Ms Shillingford that there was no way she could board the flight, claiming it was “her fault” that she had not checked for the changes to passport validity after Brexit.

“By this point the shock was starting to wear off and I was just sobbing. I was looking forward to spending time away after a difficult year,” she added.

While the UK was in the European Union, British passports were valid up to and until the date of expiry. Many passports issued in the UK last up to 10 years and 9 months due to the Government’s policy of allowing “unspent” time for the renewal process.

But after the end of the post-Brexit transition period, British passport holders are now regarded as “third country nationals” – meaning they are subject to a host of new regulations.

Britons can still travel to Canada, the US and other countries across the world until the date that their passport expires.

But to travel to the EU, British passports must meet two conditions.

According to the Government website, these are: “Your passport must be less than 10 years old on the day you enter (check the ‘date of issue’).

“Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’).”

The Government says it has “asked the European Commission to clarify the 10-year rule” but stresses that guidance will likely not be updated for Schengen border guards “until the Spring of 2022”.

Ms Shillingford, a psychotherapist, claimed that Jet2 had not issued her with any guidance over the passport changes after she booked the holiday some three months ago. She was later told the airline would not refund her for the trip.

In light of the changes, Ms Shillingford said that ministers and the travel industry need to make the changes more clear so that others do not suffer the same fate.

“Everyone is so confused, this has impacted a lot of people,” she said.

In order to fly out, Ms Shillingford said she would need to get an emergency passport - but the next available appointment to get one is on January 4 in Liverpool. “That’s my New Year’s Eve ruined,” she added.

A spokesperson for Jet2 told the Standard: “We always follow Government advice relating to passport validity and we remind customers to check the validity of their passport in our pre-departure communications.

“We also point them to our Travel Requirements page on our website, where they can find more information on how to ensure that their passport is valid for travel and in line with Government advice.

“Unfortunately, Ms Shillingford’s passport was not valid for travel, and our teams noticed this before boarding. We would like to apologise to Ms Shillingford for this experience.”

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