AN island-based couple were left distraught and out of pocket when they were denied boarding a flight to the Canary Islands because of a passport mix-up.
Retired chartered accountant Chris Hobdell and his wife Mary, an Indian national who has lived in the British Isles for 35 years, the last 25 in the Isle of Man, had been looking forward to the three-week holiday in their Tenerife timeshare.
Having flown over from the island the night before, they arrived to check in at Manchester Airport at 5.30am last Friday for their easyJet flight, only to be told that the ‘Right of Abode’ certificate that Mary carried, which is supposed to allow her free access to travel within the EU, would not be acceptable in Tenerife – and she would not be allowed to fly.
‘It came as a bolt out of the blue. It just beggars belief, it’s just bureaucratic nonsense,’ said Chris, of Alexander Drive, Douglas.
His wife, who has lived with her husband in the Isle of Man for 25 years, having previously lived in the Channel Islands for five years and London for five years, added: ‘It was like someone hitting you over the head. I was completely gobsmacked.’
Chris said the couple have had precious little sleep since the incident.
He said: ‘Mary, my wife of 35 years and mother of our two children, is Indian with an Indian passport. However, she used to have a “Certificate of Patriality” which means free access to the UK as she is my wife. Now she has a certificate of “The Right of Abode”.
‘She would normally need a Shengen visa in her passport but the visa requirements are not required if she is travelling with an EU member of the family.
‘On checking in at Manchester for the flight we were told that Tenerife would not let her in because the “Right of Abode” does not say that she is a family member. This is despite the fact that we have been married for 35 years – we produced our marriage certificate and showed that Mary’s passport officially states that I am her husband and my passport officially states that she is my wife.
‘When we were told the news we were obviously very distraught. We seem to have just hit a wall of bureaucracy that made absolutely no sense whatsoever. There was no redress, no higher authority, nobody to turn to.’
To compound their nightmare, when Chris threw a pen on to the check-in desk in frustration he was accused of throwing it at the agent and he too was told he could not fly even though all his papers were in order – not that he would have travelled without his wife anyway.
‘This was to be a three-week holiday having not spent our timeshare points for two years, and the cost runs into £2,00 to £3,000. This is a totally idiotic situation, he added.
Mr Hobdell has now written to the Border Agency to find out if new rules have been enacted and why the Right of Abode does not have the precise wording required by the handling agent at Manchester Airport. He has also written to the airline asking for some explanation and refuting the allegation that he threw a pen at somebody.
The Isle of Man Passport and Immigration Office said it cannot discuss individual cases.
A spokesman for easyJet said: ‘easyJet is legally required to ensure all passengers have valid travel documents prior to boarding. During check-in it became apparent the customer did not possess all required documents to enter Tenerife. Our staff therefore made the difficult but necessary decision to deny boarding. We would like to apologise to the customer for any inconvenience caused and urge all passengers to ensure they have the correct visas and paperwork prior to travel.’