We’ve posted numerous stories in recent years about airline staffers booting passengers from flights or having them detained after the plane lands for reasons that seem pretty petty. And here’s the story of a Consumerist reader who says he wasn’t even allowed on his plane because an American Airlines employee had issues with both of his passports, even though the TSA had no problems.
Jonathan was set to travel to London from Chicago with his college class. When he got to O’Hare Airport, his passport wouldn’t scan because his dog had apparently taken one too many bites out of it.
The attendant at the ticket counter attempted to scan it at another computer, but that’s when her boss came over and got involved in the matter.
She snatches my passport right out of the attendants hand, comes up to me and says, “Sir, you are not flying today.”
We ask her why, and she just says that it’s her call, and that she doesn’t have to accept anyone with a damaged passport.
Jonathan’s professor was with him at the AA counter and pulled out her own water-damaged passport to show that she was able to get her boarding pass. He says the American Airlines boss told the professor she should consider herself lucky she wasn’t being pulled from the flight.
This is when Jonathan remembers that he has an Israeli passport back at home. Everyone seems to agree that this is acceptable, so he changes his flight to one later in the day and heads home to get the second passport.
But his second attempt at getting a boarding pass was foiled by the same AA boss, who looked at Jonathan’s Israeli passport and told him, “You won’t be flying today, not with this passport.”
The reason? According to Jonathan, she declared that a 1 centimeter tear on one page of the passport was sufficient grounds to bar him from the flight.
But then I decided to get creative. I took my passports to the TSA office, found the head honcho and asked him if he would have any problem with letting me through, and onto my flight with either of my passports.
He said that they were both fine; had I only had my chewed up American passport, I’d just need a second form of ID for verification, which I of course had.
So I decide to bring him along with me to notify the AA GM that she is being incredibly unreasonable. Before he can even get a word out, she turns bright red and starts screaming at both of us. She threatens to call the cops on me, tells me that I should be thankful that she’s protecting me and everyone else from terrorists by not letting me on the plane, she threatens to cancel my ticket, and to also charge me the difference for having to move to a later flight.
Well then I walk away, there’s nothing left I can do. Apparently I’m a dangerous atheist Jew w/ a beard whose hell bent on keeping her from protecting her country.
After an hour on the phone with the airline, Jonathan was able to book a flight for even later in the day, knowing full well he could get turned away a third time.
But after yet another trip home and back to the airport, Matt was able to breeze through check-in and security without so much as a raised eyebrow.
In the end, Jonathan’s 7-hour flight to London required 6 hours of travel time to and from O’Hare.