Foreign Office in epic fail on passport validity information

My long journey of confusion – Foreign Office provides conflicting information

Check your passport!

Here’s a story about why it’s important to check passport expiry dates before you book travel. And why you can’t always trust the Foreign Office advice because it’s a mess!

Have you checked your passport? Beware conflicting information from various agencies!

Not enough time left on passport to travel

A traveller wanted to surprise her husband with a holiday to Cape Verde. Their 10 year old son had kept it secret too, not telling his father until 6 months later when they were on the way to the airport. They went through check-in no problem, they bought stuff from the duty free shops and went through passport control. All of them were looking forward to their week away. Her story is on Trip Advisor

Imagine the disappointment when staff at the gate told them they couldn’t travel! Their son only had three weeks left on his passport. What is the issue? Well, the family were travelling with Thomas Cook. Thomas Cook’s documents advised them that they should follow the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) guidelines for travel to Cape Verde. The FCO website stated only that passports must last the duration of the stay.

The Complaining Cow investigates passport problem

Then The Complaining Cow realised she was in exactly the same situation! Yup! My family and I were due to travel to Cape Verde less than a couple of weeks’ later. My son’s passport also had fewer than 6 months left on his passport, so I began to panic a bit!

We couldn’t even get a FastTrack passport (at exorbitant cost) because for children you have to allow at least 7 days for processing. With the Easter bank holiday included it meant we simply didn’t have enough time. So, I set about trying to get some clarity. That was less straightforward than you would think! We were flying with TUI UK (formerly Thomson) so I started with them and asked if we were okay to fly…

Who said what about how much time needed on a passport in order to travel

OrganisationAdvice providedAgree with Cape Verde Embassy?
TUI customer services ‘phoneFine with them, if I can get letter from Passport Office to say acceptable.Yes
TUI customer services emailYes, you can travel.Yes
TUI Twitter teamWe recommend all passengers have at least six months remaining on their passport prior to travel as it covers all destinations we offer however, each destination has different requirements which can be found on the GOV UK website. As per the GOV.UK website, passports must be valid for a minimum of six months from the date of entry into Cape Verde.No
Thomas CookYes, you can travel for the remaining Summer flights (not ceased until Winter).Yes
Passport OfficeDo not do this, not their role, advised contacting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.Couldn’t give advice
FCO website“The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry.”

“Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Cape Verde.”

Yes

 

 

No

FCO on phoneContact the Honorary Consul to Cabo Verde in London.Don’t know
Consul to Cabo Verde in LondonIncorrectly advised to contact him, contact the nearest Cape Verde Embassy in Rotterdam or Brussels.Couldn’t give advice
FCO emailOur travel advice is updated whenever we become aware of new information. The authorities in the country you are travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry.  Contact the Cape Verde Embassy in either Brussels or Rotterdam and seek their advice.Yes but advice on website is contradictory
FCO Consular Contact CentreThe Travel Advice team updates their pages as soon as they have official confirmation of a change. Whilst we understand that this change does not allow much time for a potential passport application, the British Consulate cannot confirm entry to Cape Verde contrary to our own current travel advice.Refers to website info which is Yes… and No
CV consulate in Brussels emailPassport for entry and exit from the territory, valid for a period superior to the authorized stay duration.Yes
CV consulate Brussels websitePassport for entry and exit from the territory, valid for a period superior to the authorized stay duration.Yes
International Air Transport AssociationIn general, airlines follow the regulations set by each country in terms of the requirements for entry into or transit through the appropriate country.Yes
IATA websitePassports need to be valid for six months from arrival.No

 

Ridiculous. So, TUI customer services on the phone, the TUI social media team and customer services email teams all said something different. The FCO has shown itself to be utterly useless in providing basic information to travellers!

Conflicting advice from various bodies regarding ability to travel with short time on passport

There seems to be no reason for any change in advice. According to Thomas Cook the FCO changed its advice in line with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website Timaticweb (https://www.timaticweb.com). This states that passports need to be valid for six months from arrival in Cape Verde. There has been no change in the advice from authorities in the country being visited whatsoever. So, the FCO says “Our travel advice is updated whenever we become aware of new information.” But no-one can tell me what the new information was!!! Maybe it was the IATA. The IATA said to me:

“It is the responsibility of the air traveller to ensure that they have sufficient travel documents for their destination and any transit points.  In general, airlines follow the regulations set by each country in terms of the requirements for entry into or transit through the appropriate country, however in certain circumstances airlines may make exceptions in the case where the immigration authorities do not or rarely enforce applicable regulations.”

But that contradicts what they appear to be saying to airlines.

A Thomas Cook spokesperson said:

“We recognise there is inconsistent information around entry requirements for Cape Verde and we appreciate the confusion this causes for our customers. The FCO has recently changed its advice to align with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website Timatic, which states that passports need to be valid for six months from arrival in Cape Verde. Due to the conflicting information and change in advice, we have advised all our UK departure airports to allow customers to travel whose passports are valid for less than six months, but valid for the duration of their stay, for the remainder of this season. For the Winter 18/19 season, we will ensure all our customers are aware that their passports need to be valid for six months from arrival in Cape Verde.”

IATA said:

“The regulation that passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date has been published in Timatic since December 2016.  We have verified this several times since with both the immigration departments and airlines, and it has not changed since then.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that it updates information when it becomes aware of it. Aside from the fact that it actually has contradictory information on its website, is it possible it only became aware of the IATA change 15 months later?!

Travelling and checking passport times

Whatever way you look at it, the safest thing to do whether travelling to Cape Verde or anywhere else is to ensure that your passport has at least 6 months left to run!

Look out timber frame on a beach "researching, booking and complaining aabout holidays and flights. Tips, ideas and your rights"

 

For links to various articles about pre, during and after holiday advice about rights etc see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights.

 

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How to Get an Extra 3 Hours on Your Holiday!

Last October teachers went on strike. For the Complaining Cow’s Calf school this meant he had a day off. The following day his school had an INSET day. Result!

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For the family it meant getting away for a long week end much much cheaper. Third to half the price!

It was right at the end of the season so just perfect for people who hate people! Majorca here we come we decided!

We booked with Alpharooms. We paid for everything including the transfer. There was a shuttle bus or a super saver bus. One cost just £1 more per person so we thought we’d do that, maybe it was a private bus or at least smaller. Wrong. We weren’t alone in thinking this. It appeared that everyone on that bus had booked the same bus, paying the extra £1 per person. But most people thought that it was only a couple of quid and forgot it methinks. However, I am not most people and remember, it’s the principle of the thing. How many people paid this extra £1 and how much profit was made? Just the same as this. Typically we were the last drop off of course. Hour and a half later we were dropped off. This can’t be helped but we thought they might pick us up last going back the other way round as we were less than half an hour away from the airport. When we got the time of when we would be picked up we found that this was not the case and we were to be picked up in the early hours of the morning with no breakfast!

So guess what I did? Yep. Fired off a quick email to Alpharooms asking what the difference was and why the bus couldn’t go the other way and given the time of our flight why were we being picked up so early. Actually, even with allowing the hour and half for the journey it still got us there 3 hours before the flight! So I got the standard response about having to investigate. We were only there for a few days so I got seriously annoyed when I still didn’t hear from them. In fact so did the Bull and we booked a taxi for the transfer. I’ll get that back I thought.

I’m The Complaining Cow. I thought right. Had to email the CEO (you can find contact details for any CEO at ceoemail.com) to do it but pointed out the unfairness and idiocy of the transfer times, the misleading of customers re transfer buses and the inconvenience. Got the full transfer costs back (both ways which was a couple of quid less than the taxi!) plus £10. I complained a bit more and got another £15 for the “potential loss” of breakfast. A total of £65. I think that was all about right.

However, there is a serious point here. After chasing for an explanation regarding the difference in prices of the transfer I was told “Alpharooms use various providers for the services that we offer. As a result some of the services are described in slightly different ways depending on the information we receive from our providers. The Super Saver Shuttle is the same as a Shuttle bus service; the difference is simply in the branding of the product” All well and good EXCEPT, the two shuttles were the same and were listed at exactly the same time. Do you think their explanation covers that? You decide and if you think not, think how many £1s were made last year as pure profit. Then you might not think me daft for complaining about a couple of quid here and there. It’s the principle of the thing, if more of us did it then perhaps consumers wouldn’t be ripped off so easily when it comes to larger amounts. What do you think?