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Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

Thomasville, Georgia
1 post
Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

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.

Level Contributor
1,995 posts
74 reviews
1. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

They do not "randomly choose to deny you boarding privileges". The passport was damaged and therefore not accepted.

Nothing random about it.

I'm sure the fine that would have been incurred by Delta had they allowed your husband to board (and he had been turned back at the border) would have been greater than the $170 you had to pay.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
Level Contributor
20,639 posts
5 reviews
2. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

"It was not due to expire until 10/14."

And there's another issue. For entry to the Schengen area, third country (non EU/Schengen) passports must be valid for three months after your scheduled departure from the Schengen area. Therefore assuming that "10/14" means 10/14/2013 your husband's passport would not have been valid for this trip and you would have been denied boarding anyway.


Level Contributor
8,300 posts
14 reviews
3. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

Have had clients denied boarding with a small watermark on their passport (on a blank page), and one that was a little more damaged, but still readable from WestJet and Transat respectively. Your passports must be in great shape. Both of those people had to send their families on their way and had to get a new passport and fly out the next day at their own cost on new tickets.

Atlanta, Georgia
Destination Expert
for Atlanta
Level Contributor
9,904 posts
79 reviews
4. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

The problem with flying on a damaged passport is that if the host country does not admit you the airline will have to get you back home and the airline will be fined. This is not unique to Delta. If your husband knew his passport was damaged, he should have contacted the airline well in advance of the trip to see if it would be accepted. Just assuming it was OKbecause, in your mind, it was only a little damaged was risky. Fortunately, you were able to work miracles and get the passport reissued in one day, which is quite a feat.

Edited: 4:15 pm, September 11, 2013
Travelling The World
Level Contributor
12,483 posts
32 reviews
5. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

Actually I assumed 10/14 meant October 2014.

I have just got a new passport after I lost mine on the beach and subsequently found it after it had been mostly buried in sand and rained on. I dried it out and it got me home (on Ryanair in fact - they didn't bat an eyelid) but I decided to renew it early and not take the risk of having a future trip jeopardised.

Edited: 4:29 pm, September 11, 2013
Level Contributor
1,564 posts
1 review
6. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

"sitting in his wallet for several years"

How big is his wallet? I use a man's wallet instead of a woman's purse* because it fits better in my pocket, but there's no way my passport would fit into it.

*In AU a purse is what you keep your cash and credit cards in and then it goes in your handbag. Is the equivalent in the US a pocketbook (that then goes in your purse)? This multi-lingual stuff is confusing!

Jasper, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jasper, Jasper National Park, Canadian Rockies
Level Contributor
13,982 posts
92 reviews
7. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

AussieGirl, here in Canada, purse = handbag, pocketbook = wallet.

Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
28,390 posts
21 reviews
8. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

IN the US a wallet is what your cash and credit cards go into. A women's wallet usually has a compartment for change. A man's wallet does not. It is NOT a pocketbook. A pocketbook is what the wallet and everything else goes into. ( old fashioned term)i.e. Some women carry pocketbooks large enough to fit everything but the kitchen sink and then with a few of them, I'm not sure the kitchen sink isn't in there too.

Yes, we all DO speak different languages.

Salisbury, United...
Level Contributor
3,990 posts
102 reviews
9. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

"Personnel at the passport office told us that as far as they were concerned, there was nothing wrong with the original passport"

It doesn't matter what the US passport authorities thought, your problems could have been with the Spanish authorities not accepting the passport. Delta were correct in not accepting the risk of a fine. It is up to the passenger to make sure they have the correct documentation and that it is not of an acceptable condition.

This could have happened to you with any airline. Luckily you checked in early and were able to sort the problem out.

Fortaleza, CE
Level Contributor
8,441 posts
378 reviews
10. Re: Delta Airlines - Passport Damage - Beware!

You seem certain this is a common occurrence with Delta and doesn't ever happen with other airlines, thus your warning concerns just Delta. I'm sure it's Delta's corporate policy to randomly deny boarding to passengers. It hasn't happened to us with Delta, but it's just a matter of time. Obviously. Logical. Right?

Edited: 5:53 pm, September 11, 2013