On 8/27/13, my husband and I were scheduled to fly to Barcelona for a two week trip which had been planned for months. Thankfully, we checked in over 9 hours in advance of our scheduled international flight. My husband's passport was slightly damanged from sitting in his wallet for several years and had a slight amount of water damage from where he had apparently sat in something wet. It was not due to expire until 10/14. It had been successfully used for international travel within the last year on two separate occasions (Canada, Bahamas), no problems, and could be scanned and easily read. The Delta agents at the international check in desk informed us that we would not be allowed to board the flight to Barcelona, because although the host countries which we were scheduled to visit (Spain, France, Italy) would accept the passport without any difficulty because "they want the tourist dollars", Delta would be fined because the passport was damaged, and they were "tired of paying fines for bad passports." Although we offered to pay any related fines, they told us that the only solution was to obtain a brand new passport. That day. Had we not checked in early (and we had been told originally not to check in until 5 hours prior to our flight) we would have been out of luck because we had to leave Hartsfield International aiport, travel to the passport office in downtown Atlanta, and secure a brand new passport ($170.00) in order to leave that day. Personnel at the passport office told us that as far as they were concerned, there was nothing wrong with the original passport. It took over 5 and a half hours to get the new passport, and we made it back to Hartsfield with an hour to spare, but it was a particularly harrowing day. We were told by the Delta agents that this was a "new policy" for which they had recently attended "passport seminars" but I see that this is not, in fact, something new:
So, beware that if your passport is NOT in pristine condition, Delta agents may randomly choose to deny you boarding priveleges. I should add that the Delta agents were not in the least bit sympathetic. Their attitude was more "if you make it back in time, fine; if you don't, too bad for you." I should add that there is absolutely nothing about this policy on the Delta website that I can find, nor was I able to find anything about the alleged fines incurred by Delta for supposedly "damaged passports" after doing a Google search.