Ryanair admits mistake after Chesterfield pensioner refused boarding on flight over Brexit passport changes

Ryanair has admitted it was wrong to refuse a Chesterfield pensioner boarding on a flight after confusion over recent changes to passport rules meant a couple’s holiday plans were left in tatters.

By Alana Roberts
Monday, 16th May 2022, 10:49 am

Christopher Louca, 82, had travelled to East Midlands Airport with his wife Marie, 78, on Tuesday for a week-long family holiday in Torremolinos.

But disaster struck when Christopher, who had already passed through check-in and airport security, was refused boarding by Ryanair after the budget airline claimed his passport had expired for EU travel – even though it had nine months left on it.

It meant the elderly couple were forced to return to their home in Wingerworth and miss out on their break to the Costa Del Sol.

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Pensioners lose money after being refused Ryan Air flight. Marie Louca and her husband Christopher.

Marie, who volunteers at Gussie’s Kitchen community project, said: “We had been at the airport since just before 6am to fly at 7.50am and had queued for about an hour to check-in.

"Everything was clear after that, we’d put our luggage through but when we went to board the plane they just said to my husband, you won’t be going anywhere.

"They told me I could go but I said how can I leave my husband behind and go on a holiday; three of my sisters from Ireland and my brother-in-law, were meeting at Malaga Airport.

"It was a family trip as we hadn’t really seen each other because of Covid.

Pensioners lose money after being refused Ryan Air flight. Marie Louca and her husband Christopher.

"We had to wait nearly another hour to get our luggage off the plane.”

Prior to Brexit, travellers from the UK could travel within the border-free Schengen Area as the country was a member of the European Union, although Britain was not part of the Schengen Agreement.

However some EU countries in the Schengen Area, which includes the likes of Greece and Spain, are insisting passports must be no more than 10 years old from the point of issue and have three months left before the passenger's return date.

Christopher’s passport was originally issued on June 24, 2012, meaning it would have been due to expire next month.

But he renewed it early and another nine months were added, giving it a new expiry date of February 24, 2023.

To confuse matters even further, he had also only recently returned from a trip to his homeland of Cyprus to visit his terminally ill sister – a flight he took with Jet 2 during which he encountered no issues, despite Cyprus being a Schengen state.

Marie added: “We were both devastated. We’re both getting on and were really looking forward to this holiday.

“It was like somebody gave you a punch in the stomach; you’re so excited, you’re going out to meet all your family, you’re going to have a lovely time, then it’s all spoilt.”

"I did ask about the possibility of getting our money back for the flight but was told there was no way as it’s your fault not our fault.”

However, Ryanair has since admitted its staff were wrong to deny Christopher boarding after being contacted by the Derbyshire Times.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “We regret that our handling agents at East Midlands appear to have wrongly believed that Mr Louca’s passport was not valid for travel since it was issued on 24th June 2012, which was almost 10 years before his outbound flight on 10th May.

"In fact his passport did just meet the requirements for travel to the EU, which are: 1. Passport must be issued with 10 years of the date of arrival into the EU 2. Passport must be valaid for at least three months from the return date of travel fro the EU.

"In light of this regrettable error by our handling agents, we have written to Mr Louca and given him a full refund of GBP 69.48, the cost of his unused return flights, and as a gesture of goodwill, we have also given him a travel voucher for GBP 70 which we hope he will use to book more Ryanair flights in the very near future.

"We apologise sincerely for the error our handling agent made in this case.”

Simon Calder, travel correspondent for The Independent, revealed on Thursday how officers have now changed the wording of travel advice to bring it into line with the European Commission after dozens of passengers were denied boarding by mistake.