EasyJet turns four-year-old away from Gatwick – but lets him fly from Southampton

A four-year-old and his mother took easyJet flight 1586 from Southampton to Geneva for a week’s holiday in the Alps. Shortly after 6pm on 17 December 2023, they cleared Swiss passport control.

Which, according to easyJet, they should not have been able to do. Earlier that same day, the airline had turned them away from a Gatwick-Geneva flight.

Yet easyJet immediately sold them flights for a further £198 and allowed them on the plane from the Hampshire airport.

The four-year-old, his two siblings and their parents live in Guernsey. They were all booked on the easyJet morning flight from London Gatwick to the Swiss airport, paying just over £150 each.

A few days before their holiday, the parents had realised the four-year-old’s passport would not meet the post-Brexit passport validity requirements the UK requested after leaving the EU.

Fortunately, the Guernsey passport office is able to issue temporary passports for children that are valid across Europe for one year. They duly obtained the document and travelled to Gatwick.

The father describes events at the departure gate at the Sussex airport: “We attempted to board the easyJet flight. The gate picked up that my son had a green-covered UK/Guernsey passport valid for one year.

“The gate staff called their office, and the office refused him to board. We tried to explain but to no avail. So my wife had to stay with our four-year-old, who was distraught, whilst I travelled with our other two children, who were also distraught.

“When my wife and son were escorted from airside to landside, a Gatwick immigration officer asked what was happening. The gate staff said it was an invalid passport. When the immigration officer checked, he said: ‘No, this is a valid passport’ – at which point the ground staff told him the flight had left anyway and hurried my wife and son away.”

Knowing the document was valid for travel to Switzerland, his wife booked a same-day flight with easyJet from Southampton to Geneva. The pair travelled without incident. Due to their late arrival, they had to take a taxi for the last past of their journey.

On their return, the father sought recompense for the extra costs as well as the denied-boarding compensation they were due.

The response from the airline mirrored the case of Jacqueline McGeough, who easyJet refused to allow on a holiday flight to Italy. The airline told her six times she was correctly denied boarding – even though a moment’s scrutiny of her passport and travel dates would reveal she was clear to travel. Only when The Independent became involved did easyJet accept its mistake.

In the case of the family from Guernsey, easyJet’s customer service department once again repeatedly rebuffed the father’s appeals.

The airline initially said: “Having checked the booking, your records show that the passenger on the booking was refused carriage due to insufficient or invalid documentation (passport) which is required to travel with easyJet.”

When he challenged that decision, he was told: “We have received an update from our senior team, they have investigated and have confirmed that a temporary passport is not accepted to travel to Switzerland, and was denied correctly. Therefore under the regulation guidelines we are unable to reimburse your claim for expenses and compensation.”

The father was baffled, because easyJet itself had demonstrated his son was perfectly able to travel.

His final attempt before contacting The Independent was also rebuffed: “Our assessment team have had another look at your claim request and investigated all of the information available have documented that you were refused carriage due to insufficient or invalid documentation (Temperory [sic] passport) which is required to travel with easyJet.”

Once The Independent contacted easyJet, the airline accepted it was wrong to turn the four-year-old away – blaming a third-party documentation system.

A spokesperson said: “Like many airlines, easyJet uses an automated verification system called TravelDoc to validate passengers’ travel documents which uses immigration data collected from various sources including government agencies.

“Unfortunately, on this occasion the system incorrectly informed the ground agent that the passenger was unable to travel on their flight from London Gatwick to Geneva and the same information was subsequently provided to our customer service team.

“We have raised this with TravelDoc who have corrected this and we are in touch with Mr Newark to apologise for his experience, reimburse him for his flights and any travel expenses he incurred and to provide the compensation they are due.”

It appears that ground staff at Southampton, knowing the passport to be valid, did not consult TravelDoc and therefore were unaware of the false information.

EasyJet says TravelDoc has now corrected its error.

The mother and four-year-old are due £220 each in denied boarding compensation and a refund of the unused easyJet flights from Gatwick, as well as the extra costs triggered by the airline’s mistake.