Pete Rose and his fiancée Paula had been planning the trip to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico for almost six months.
The couple and their four children made the first leg of the trip from Bradley International Airport in Hartford County, Connecticut, with no problems and arrived at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for their connection to Mexico, thinking the hard part of getting through security was over, telling NBC Connecticut Responds, “you’re so relaxed when you’re traveling. As far as we were concerned, we were done-- we were in Mexico.”
That relaxed feeling disappeared in an instant when, Pete said, an American Airlines gate agent pulled his passport away from another agent and told him he would not be permitted to fly.
When asked for an explanation, Pete said, the agent said, “Your passport’s been mutilated.”
The family said they asked the agent repeatedly for a supervisor and were told he was busy. Pete said he was directed to another gate across the terminal where the supervisor was checking in another flight and he ran over. He said the gate was empty when he arrived.
With the plane to Mexico long gone, Pete and his family found themselves stranded in Dallas. They waited for two nights at a local hotel before paying extra to fly back home to Connecticut. Making matters worse, Pete didn’t have any of his clothes, shoes or toiletries, because his checked bag had flown to Mexico.
Upset with the situation, the family reached out to NBC Connecticut Responds for help. Our team has learned that gate agents are allowed to deny boarding to any passenger if a passport appears damaged or altered beyond normal wear and tear, and that it’s the responsibility of the airline to determine if a passport meets standards for international travel, not the Transportation Security Administration.
Pete’s passport had gotten wet on a previous trip, but he said he didn’t replace it because a customs agent told him the damage wasn’t significant. He never suspected his passport’s condition could be considered unacceptable because he had traveled internationally since then, telling NBC Connecticut, “TSA, other countries I’ve traveled through, gate agents and customs agents, they’ve seen no problem with this, so I was 100 percent comfortable that everything I had was proper.”
When NBC Connecticut Responds reached out to American Airlines, they reiterated that their agents are responsible for enforcing passport rules to be sure their passengers aren’t turned away at their destination country, but they also recognized what the family experienced.
In a statement, American Airlines said, “We apologize to the Rose family for what transpired during their recent journey with American Airlines. We have reached out to the family, refunded the full value of their tickets, and have provided travel vouchers for future use on American.”
While the family said nothing can replace the vacation they’ve lost, they are considering using their vouchers and refund, a total value of $7,782, towards a different trip this summer.
The U.S. State Department suggests you may need to replace your passport if it has suffered water damage, a significant tear, unofficial markings, or torn pages. For more information, or if you think you may need to replace a damaged passport, click here.