Don’t Get Grounded Because of Passport Damage

You’ve planned your dream trip. Or your honeymoon. Or a much-needed vacation. You are at the airport, ready to relax. But then, as you are boarding your flight to paradise, the gate agent stops you. Your passport, which shows signs of damage, is too damaged for the airline to allow you on the plane. You are stuck. Grounded because of passport damage.

This story is not at all far fetched, and in fact just recently happened to a bride who was embarking on her honeymoon. Her and her new husband had to spend around $2,000 in re-booking fees to salvage their trip.

I also know someone who had this happen to her. The airline employee told her to run and get some glue to secure her passport cover better. She grabbed some crazy glue, repaired her passport cover, and was able to board her flight. The reason the airline agent cited for not allowing her to board with her passport in the original condition it was in: Officials in the foreign country she was traveling to may have suspected that her passport was counterfeit because the cover was torn and loose, and could have denied her entry into the country.

Given the fact that counterfeiting of passports is an issue the world over, this isn’t an unreasonable concern.

According to the U.S. State Department: “If your passport has been significantly damaged, especially the book cover or the page displaying your personal data and photo, you will need to apply for a new passport.  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. Normal wear of a U.S. passport is expected and likely does not constitute “damage.”

The issue: Airline representatives have to make judgment calls based on their experience on what constitutes “wear and tear” versus “damage.” And no one wants to be the employee to send someone through only to have them deported back to the U.S. immediately. And even for domestic flights, starting as soon as early 2016, ID holders from a handful states (including New York) will have to have a passport to fly even domestically. So that added wear and tear of having to present your passport even for domestic flights can cause major issues for your passport preservation.

So be sure to protect your passport, as it is your most important and valuable official document. This is a large portion of the reason that BarrisTourista created passport holders and just opened the sale. After not being able to find a fashionable passport holder I liked, I decided to create them myself. And with increasing stories of airline representatives cracking down, I am glad I did.

Check out the complete line of covers here.

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I am a lawyer. I am a journalist. I am a writer. I am a photographer. And I love to travel.

40 comments on “Don’t Get Grounded Because of Passport Damage”

  1. I don’t think it’s unreasonable. I think it’s a person’s personal responsibility to make sure their passport stays in good condition, or get a new one made. These are kind of things you should do preparing for a big trip anyway.

    1. I agree, Heather, but the issue comes with the fact that it is on a case by case basis, I think. Like what if your passport gets bent in your bag on the way to the airport. How much damage is too much? Either way, at least passport holders help with some of that.

  2. I’ll be getting passports for my family next year so this information will definitely come in handy. I used to travel internationally years ago but that was before 9/11 and so much has changed now. Thanks for the update.

    1. Exactly Heather! It happens so frequently, and you may not realize it’s an issue until the last moment. That’s partly why I made passport covers, because I felt I needed one myself!

  3. Yes, I figured out it is one of the reasons you might miss your flight. This is why we must take care of our passport and don’t let it get damaged.

    1. The problem, Miles, is that it is subject to the discretion of the gate agent. What if it drops in a puddle and dried crinkly while traveling. Or the cover gets bent in your bag while traveling? For some that may be enough of an issue! Protection is key, and if in doubt err on the side of caution!

  4. I’m traveling aboard for the first time in a few months (I’m going to Paris for my birthday) so this is an eye opener for me! I could be so upset if I my passport was damaged and they grounded me!

  5. This is indeed great information for those who are traveling. I didn’t know that in 2016 there will be domestic flights you will need a passport for which is really a good idea now days. Passport covers are the way to go for sure. Thanks for sharing the information.

    1. Rebecca, yes residents of certain states (like NY) will need a passport even for domestic flights. That is why I developed a line of passport holders through BarrisTourista Travel Store. So important to protect, especially when your passport is getting frequent use!

  6. This is a problem? I had no idea! Clearly I havent travelled enough for this to be something I know! Now I’ll be ready in case I do international travel!

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