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Man denied boarding for Ryanair flight to Spain despite his passport being valid

Ryanair has apologised after ground staff at Luton airport refused to allow a passenger to board a plane to Spain despite his passport being valid.

Mark Starkey, 51, was booked on the 6am flight to Alicante on Friday 8 December. His UK passport was issued on 11 December 2013 and expires on 11 July 2024 .

Under post-Brexit rules a British passport must be less than 10 years old on the day of travel to the European Union and have at least three months remaining on the intended day of return. Mr Starkey’s passport met both these conditions.

But a supervisor at the London airport insisted the document was ineligible and refused to allow him to board the plane.

Mr Starkey, an educational technology executive, told The Independent that he passed through security and the departure gate check without a problem: “The ground staff lady noted that I only had three days left on my passport from the day it was issued for the 10-year rule. I said that I knew and this was my last trip of the year before I got my passport renewed.

“She waved me through and I started walking towards the plane. She then called me back and said that she wanted to double check with the immigration people at Ryanair.

“She called them and gave them my details but was stating ‘I don’t think he can fly’. She then put down the phone and said that my passport was not valid.

“I said that I disagreed and asked to speak with a manager. She said she was the supervisor and the person in charge. I asked to speak with the Ryanair immigration person but she refused – saying that only she could do this and they had said that my passport was not valid.

“I was stunned that I was completely stonewalled. I then had to try and get back through the airport.”

Mr Starkey returned to his home in Buckinghamshire. After The Independent confirmed his passport was valid, he booked an easyJet flight and flew to Spain the following day, using the same passport, without a problem.

In the Brexit negotiations, the UK asked for British passport holders to be treated as “third-country nationals” – the same category as travellers from dozens of countries including Tonga and Venezuela.

For many months after the rule took effect in 2021, both Ryanair and easyJet applied incorrect rules – wrongly claiming that a British passport is no longer valid after nine years and nine months.

After pressure from The Independent, both airlines fell into line with the Brussels rules – along with the UK government, which had been issuing misleading information on the subject.

A Ryanair spokesperson said of Mr Starkey’s case: “We sincerely regret that this passenger was incorrectly denied travel by the handling agent at Luton airport, who wrongly believed that this passenger’s passport was not valid for travel to the EU.

“All UK nationals travelling to the EU must comply with the following entry requirements:

  • Passports must be issued within 10 years of the date of arrival into the EU.

  • The passport must be valid for at least 3 months from the return date of travel from the EU.

“A member of our Customer Service Department will contact this passenger regarding the error made by our handling agent at Luton airport.”

In addition to refunding his air fare and paying for extra transport costs incurred by Mr Starkey, Ryanair must also pay £350 in cash compensation under European air passengers’ rights rules.