Irish family gets stuck in airport limbo in Barcelona
Pricewatch: A reader’s holiday turns ‘horrendous’ after passport goes missing
“We landed in Barcelona, and at passport control I discovered I was missing my niece’s passport, so we couldn’t get through.” Photograph: Alan Betson
Have you ever wondered what happens if you misplace your passport while travelling with Ryanair and the airline don’t do anything to help you out? Wonder no more. It is a long story so you might want to fasten your seatbelt and settle in.
The story started in January 2015 when a reader called Orlaith and her family flew with Ryanair to Barcelona to mark her mother’s 70th birthday. At the boarding gate in Dublin, Orlaith gathered up all passports. On the flight, she and her niece looked through them, laughing at photos and examining immigration stamps from different countries. We’ve all done it.
“We landed in Barcelona, and at passport control I discovered I was missing my niece’s passport, so we couldn’t get through. My mother, brother and sister went through and to the Ryanair desk to tell them of the situation. They told Ryanair personnel what seat we were in etc. and that the passport of a six-year-old was, more than likely, under the seat. Myself and my husband waited with the children, trapped in a small corridor between a locked door which leads to the runway and the police kiosk.”
Nobody came from Ryanair. “We continued waiting, at a loss as to what to do. We explained the situation to the police. They asked if Ryanair knew. We said they did. We continued waiting. Nothing happened. After a long time the policeman said we could go on through.”
The family went straight back to Ryanair desk. “They were no help. Their only advice was telling us to telephone airport lost-and-found the following morning. We did but there was no sign of any passport. They told us that by law if a passport was found it would have to go to the police in the airport. So we called the airport police. No passport.
“On Monday morning we called lost-and-found again. No passport. We then went to a police station and explained the situation to a wonderfully kind policeman with fluent English. The police called airport police and the Civil Guard. They also checked internal police systems.”
Orlaith then called Ryanair and was connected to London, who gave her a number for Dublin. “We called and got a recorded message telling us to call the first number. We called back and were told to go to the Ryanair desk in the airport on the day of the flight. We were told there was nothing they could do over the phone. The policeman suggested we explain the situation at the airport and they would probably let us fly.”
So early the next morning they went to the Ryanair desk. “They said there was nothing they could do. We pleaded. They said it was nothing to do with them. The woman I was speaking to said she worked for a handling company, and that there was nobody from Ryanair there. We explained that Ryanair people on the phone told us to talk to their people at the airport. She said there was no Ryanair people at the airport.”
The family went to the Aer Lingus desk to see if they bought tickets home could the child fly without her passport. But there was no one at that desk to ask.
They had also been in repeated contact with the Irish consulate in Barcelona and the embassy in Madrid. “We were all very distraught and upset. The stress of the situation made my mother ill. My mother and sister told me to go home and try sort things out from there as they were helpless and hopeless in Barcelona. I was reluctant to go. They were all wrecked and panicked. It broke my heart and I cried all the way home. Just before I boarded, I got a call from the Embassy, who told me they had received my message, so the process of getting a emergency passport started.
“Finally we had something happening. Meanwhile my family, including my little nephew, spent 13 hours at El Prat airport. My sister had to go back and forth to the consulate twice. But the horror is not over yet. I offered to book flights with Ryanair for 11pm. The cost was €900. But I felt that I could put it on my Visa. I just wanted them home. The internet in the airport internet cafe was down. They had nowhere to check in or print off tickets. However, the Ryanair website stated that the tickets couldn’t be purchased online, only at the airport. I spoke to Mam and told her to go to Ryanair desk and buy tickets. The Ryanair desk told them if they bought them, they would have to show their boarding passes on a smartphone. Neither of them have a smartphone. This made no sense. So they couldn’t take that flight.”
Orlaith told her mother to stay overnight at an airport hotel and she would book the early flight the next morning, and they checked in online at the hotel. “After they got home, my sister called lost-and-found in Dublin airport. They had Emma’s passport. A Ryanair staff member had handed it in to them on Friday night – the night the passport was left on the plane. This has just been horrendous. It could all have been prevented had Ryanair personnel just checked the plane when we asked, instead of ignoring us.”
In a statement Ryanair was unapologetic although it did express a degree of regret. “While we regret any inconvenience caused, it is each customer’s responsibility to ensure they have their passport on all journeys and Ryanair is not responsible for lost items. The crew on this flight (in February 2015, over two years ago) carried out a search of the aircraft after landing but did not locate the passport, which was eventually located in Dublin and subsequently returned to the customer.”