An AFF member is $1,500 out of pocket after Qantas denied them boarding due to minor passport damage. While an unfortunate mistake by the passenger, the airline also could have done more to resolve the situation.
Cossie was flying from Canberra to Jakarta with Qantas. This member was also booked to continue from Jakarta to Amsterdam on a Qatar Airways sale fare later that day. The Qatar Airways flights were booked on a separate ticket, requiring immigration and customs to be cleared in Indonesia.
Upon arriving at Canberra Airport, the Qantas check-in staff noticed that Cossie‘s passport had minor damage. In their judgement, this would result in a refusal of entry by Indonesian authorities.
My passport was closely examined and it has a very minor tear, probably 2mm long and is coming apart at the seams by 2mm each side. I had never really noticed this.
I was then told that I would be refused entry to Indonesia because of this damage and that the Indonesians had become very finicky, especially in Bali. Interestingly it had been examined by immigration officials in at least 7 different countries, some several times this year alone, without any issues being raised.
Apparently, the same staff member had the previous week checked in another passenger travelling to Denpasar, who had similar minor damage to their passport. That passenger was subsequently denied entry to Indonesia and Qantas received a fine. If true, the airline’s actions were reasonable as airlines have a responsibility not to fly passengers to a country where they will be refused entry.
Qantas could have resolved the unfortunate situation by offering to through-check this passenger’s luggage from Canberra to Amsterdam. After all, Qatar Airways is a Qantas partner through the Oneworld alliance and the two airlines have an interline agreement. The problem with the slightly-damaged passport appeared to be specific to Indonesia, so removing the need for the passenger to clear immigration there would have solved the problem. Despite Qantas having the ability to do this, they refused to.
The Oneworld alliance used to guarantee interlining on separate itineraries, but removed the requirement for airlines to offer this in 2016. Some carriers will still through-check to other Oneworld airlines where separate tickets are involved – but Qantas now chooses to only do this under limited circumstances.
Qantas did offer to fly Cossie to another city in Asia, but changing the Qatar Airways ticket would have cost around $3,000.
Instead, this member cancelled all the flights and applied for a new passport. They re-booked with Qatar Airways, flying direct from Canberra to Europe.
Bottom line was new passport with an express fee, cancelled flights, lost prepaid, non refundable accommodation in Amsterdam and Stockholm, plus cancellation of 2 non refundable flight in Europe, total loss will be about $1500, which I believe is not claimable on my travel insurance as it was my fault for “Errors or omissions in any booking arrangements or failure to obtain relevant visa, passport or travel documents”.
So new trip booked and Qantas is the big loser here, apart from me of course, as I have now booked a return ticket with Qatar direct to Europe and return from Canberra, bypassing Qantas, something that I will consider doing more in the future.
This case serves as a timely reminder to make sure your passport is kept in good condition – especially if you’re travelling to Indonesia.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Denied boarding to Jakarta due to ‘damaged’ passport