Airport staff working for British Airways turned away an 82-year-old passenger by wrongly claiming her passport was not valid for travel to Spain – and cost her a week of her holiday.
Hazel Little, a retired local government officer, was booked on a British Airways charter flight from Southampton airport to Palma de Mallorca on Saturday 26 August, along with her daughter Juliet. But staff at the BA check-in at Southampton refused to allow Hazel Little to board.
Hazel Little’s passport met both these conditions. The Independent has verified that the passport should have allowed her to travel outbound to the European Union up to and including 6 November 2023, for a stay up to 7 January 2024.
But Juliet Little said: “We were told there needed to be three months between our return date and the 10-year anniversary of the passport.”
This has never been the case – though for months easyJet, Ryanair and even the UK government perpetuated the myth until The Independent persuaded them to align with the actual European rules.
Had Juliet Little voluntarily decided to remain behind, she was at risk of losing the full cost of her holiday. She called her sister who was able to come to Southampton airport to collect her mother.
“We felt that I needed to travel, as we would be in an even worse position if I declined to travel.”
Since Hazel Little’s passport was valid, she would have been able to fly on the same day with any other airline to Palma. But the mother and daughter took the word of staff at Southampton airport that it was no use.
To try to salvage at least the second week of the fortnight’s holiday, Hazel Little set about obtaining a new passport. She travelled more than 100 miles from her home in Winchester to the nearest Passport Office with a fast-track appointment: Newport in South Wales.
With her new passport, she flew out a week later than planned. The British Airways flight was nearly three hours late, and the assistance booked at Palma de Mallorca did not materialise.
Hazel Little finally reached the hotel shortly before midnight, having missed more than half of the holiday.
Juliet Little said: “Through this initial error, and no fault of our own, Mum has missed a week of her holiday and incurred additional expenses.
“As an 82-year-old lady, she had to face travelling on her own for the first time and negotiating a very busy Palma airport on a Saturday.
“I too feel aggrieved as although I have been on a two-week holiday, the first week was spent on my own – not something I would ever choose to do, and I didn’t feel comfortable being forced into it.
“During that first week, a good deal of my time was spent trying to figure out, from a distance, how we could get Mum to the Passport Office and back and finally out to Mallorca.
”British Airways wrecked our holiday by inventing passport rules. It has been a very stressful and emotional experience, and clearly not the way either of us wanted to spend our holiday.”
To compound the muddle created by BA, there was no certainty that Hazel Little would be allowed on the flight back from Palma to Southampton. Normally if a passenger on British Airways is a “no show” their return trip is automatically cancelled.
“The second week was spent trying to get an answer from BA and Tui as to whether she had a flight back. Over six days, in the second week alone, we visited the reps eight times, and finally only got the confirmation when we called a Tui number back in the UK.”
The Tui package holiday cost £1,945. The quest for an unnecessary new passport left Hazel Little £567 out of pocket.
A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We’re very sorry for our customer’s experience and our teams will be in touch to apologise and resolve the matter.”
The Independent has asked Tui for a response.