After four years of dating, Carly Baker and Chris Fee married on Friday, October 9 and headed to the airport for their dream Grecian honeymoon two days later.
But before the newlyweds could board their plane at Philadelphia International Airport, they were stopped by a U.S. Airways representative at the check-in counter. Baker was told she was not allowed on the flight because of the condition of her passport.
“[It was] her opinion that my passport was too damaged to be used, citing strings hanging off the sides and the seams ‘splitting,’” Baker told Buzzfeed News.
Baker explained to Buzzfeed News that she had used the passport, in the same condition, 13 months prior, and that her and her husband had been saving for two years to travel to Greece, Rome, and other cities for their honeymoon.
“I thought they were kidding- we caught the woman at the end of her shift [because] she pulled us from the flight and banned my passport then literally walked out of the building” she wrote in a comment on her Facebook account. In addition to sharing her story on Facebook, Baker also shared photos of her “damaged” passport on Twitter.
— carly b (@attntiondeficit) October 13, 2015
After the first representative left, a second employee, whom the couple believed to be a manager, told the couple that the passport seemed fine to use.
“I referenced the strings,” Baker said. “She took my passport to the back room and snipped them off, and said I’d be fine.”
However, the second employee learned that the first had indicated that Baker could not fly on her current passport, and had made a note in Baker’s travel file.
“She tried getting her boss to override my restriction, but [her] boss clearly did not want to throw the first manager under [the] bus by putting an override on file over her first opinion,” Baker told Buzzfeed News.
Leslie Scott, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, which owns U.S. Airways, sent a statement to Philadelphia’s NBC10 regarding the condition of the passport and the State Department’s guidelines.
“The customer’s passport was damaged and the State Department does not permit us to allow passengers with damaged documents to travel,” Scott wrote. “We explained to the passenger how she could quickly receive a new passport and have offered to waive all fees and rebook the passengers’ flights, extending their trip two days. The danger with allowing a passenger to travel with a damaged passport is that they may not be allowed entrance into the foreign country to which they are traveling and would immediately be put back on a plane to the U.S.”
Scott also referred to the State Department passport travel restrictions which state, “Conditions that may constitute damage requiring you to replace your passport include water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings on the data page, missing visa pages (torn out), a hole punch, or other injuries.”
The government does allow for “normal wear and tear” on passports, which the guidelines say is “to be expected.”
“We just want to stress that we understand and in no way disagree with the rules, regulations, and policies of American Airlines and the State Department, but we felt like AA’s decision was hastily made based on the disagreement of their own staff,” Fee told NBC10. “Above all, we want other folks to be prepared when traveling abroad so they can avoid what we had to go through.”
Scott told Buzzfeed News that the airline waived the price difference between their two flights, and the change fee, but would not be upgrading the couple or offering compensation for the incident.
“We didn’t damage the passport,” Scott said, though she added that the company is “sympathetic” to the troublesome start of the couple’s honeymoon.
Baker has since applied for and received a new passport, and the couple left for their delayed honeymoon on Tuesday night. The rebooking and cancellation costs topped out at about $1,500 with the newlyweds being, “3 days late, 2 tours short, 1 road-trip less, and thousands of memories without,” Baker wrote in a Facebook review of American Airlines.