Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

'Thumbed' passport grounds family

Kevin Higgins' passport (personal details have been blurred)
The bottom left corner of Kevin Higgins' passport was "too damaged"

A Dorset family was not allowed on a Ryanair flight because one of them had a "well thumbed" passport which check-in staff claimed was a security risk.

Kathy and Kevin Higgins were due to fly from Bournemouth Airport to Barcelona with their children, Ellen and Jack, on Saturday for a half-term holiday.

Mrs Higgins said they were turned away because the corner of her husband's nine-year-old passport was "worn".

Servisair said the passport was "too damaged to allow Mr Higgins to travel".

Mrs Higgins said the representative of Servisair, which checks in passengers travelling with Ryanair, was "rude and uncommunicative".

'Treated like criminals'

She said: "We were eventually threatened with the police and anti-terrorism laws if we didn't leave the airport.

"We have been treated like criminals.

"We were refused a flight for which we have already supplied all our personal and passport details for checking days ago.

"No attempt at all was made to establish the validity of the passport, the representative refused to refer it to a third party, customs and immigration, or border controls.

"She had no documentation to clarify what constitutes damage and tampering either by her own company or the airline.

From left, Kevin, Ellen, Kathy and Jack Higgins
The Higgins family have not received any compensation

"I have spoken with the passport office and they claim a damaged passport is one which is illegible, has obviously been defaced and written over or water damaged or cannot be read electronically. My husband's passport is none of these.

"It is not defaced in any way, no water damage and is perfectly legible."

She said Mr Higgins had travelled four times already this year, once to the US, using his passport without any problems.

A spokesman for Servisair said: "Having examined [the photographs] and talked to our supervisor, Servisair is sorry that the passport was too damaged to allow Mr Higgins to travel.

"As the handling agent for the airline we have to stick to their regulations and so our supervisor had to refuse travel because the passport lamination had started to come away, which allowed possible tampering with the photograph and was clearly a security risk and against those regulations.

"As we always advise, people should put their passport in a passport holder for protection against damage and we are very sorry that the passport was damaged and therefore travel was refused."

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