In Kanchanaburi, Thailand we went for a swim in the River Kwai. Our hut was un-lockable so my super safe boyfriend decided to take our passports & money behind with us in an old “waterproof” pouch.
2 years on and I still HATE that pouch.
Our passports were completely drowned. The stamp ink ran everywhere and our faces took on a weird washed out green look.
We still had 15 flights and 7 countries to go! Our choice was fly to London for an expensive emergency passport… or just wing it.
And it worked!! We learnt little tricks to make passport checks easier. By the time we came home I had so much confidence in my little green face I went on to fly 16 times. Including a trip to China and two to America. (If they let me in, who wouldn’t!?)
So should you ever find yourself stuck with a damaged passport, here’s how to get away with it:
1. Online check-in is your friend
Self check-in is also your friend. Humans will question your damaged passport, but beautiful, beautiful machines won’t.
The later in the process humans notice the damage, the less likely they are to stop you boarding the flight. If you can skip the first hurdle you can basically skip straight onto the plane.
2. Everyone loves a charmer
I hate the whole airport fiasco. And early mornings. I slump around in my comfy clothes and headphones wishing everyone would drop dead.
But not when I’m winging it! I am the nicest, friendliest person you have ever met. If you are going to stop me getting on my plane, you can be damn sure I’m going to take you on a guilt trip for it.
3. Get strategic
We found that this strategy for passport check works well. Queue up for a middle aged man, who either looks confident or bored. And if there are two of you with a damaged passport put the woman first, then the man second.
Why? We found younger staff were more likely to check with their manager than middle aged staff. Women were also more likely to check. However bored staff waved anyone through. As did confident staff. (Chatting to co-workers, generally having a laugh. Not sure why, maybe they don’t want to cause a fuss?)
We also found that if Rob went first, he would get questioned. But if I went first I wouldn’t. And if Rob followed they couldn’t really question him for the exact same damage.
4. Be prepared
If they are really torn whether to let you through they might ask to see a second ID. Don’t give them extra thinking time!! Have that second ID in your hand ready to go.
Although they were rarely needed we also carried photocopies of our passports from before the damage.
(Bonus points for having the exact same photo on your second ID).
5. If all else fails, you’ll still be okay…
These tricks won’t work forever! At some point you’re gonna get caught out. For me that was flight 32. TO FRANCE. Easy Jet are you kidding me.
It felt like the end of the world at the time. They told me I would have to go into London for an emergency 1 day fast track passport. NOT TRUE. UK damaged passports cannot be fast tracked. They take up to 3 weeks, and require all sorts of drama like countersignatories.
Instead I decided to wing it again. Literally walked across the airport to buy tickets from Monarch. Checked with them first that the passport would be okay to fly with, thankfully they said yes!
I ended up squeezing 4 more flights out of my little green passport before finally getting a new one. Perhaps I could have squeezed another 32 flights out of it, maybe more. But after buying two outbound flights to France (and getting zero compensation) it wasn’t worth the risk anymore!
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