CO gate agents&passports

Old Feb 18, 08, 11:25 pm
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CO gate agents&passports

I got a new passport in July 2005. I travel a lot and so does my passport. I go to Mexico (Cancun,Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos) about 7 times a year. The humidity there made my passport look a little damp on the edges. I had no problem with it getting into Mexico at any point. But once, leaving Cancun, the Continental gate agent pulled me aside to tell me I might think about getting a new passport. I was surprised, since it was so new. It didn't expire until 2015. I didn't see anything wrong with it, and asked what was wrong. She just said it "looked worn" and it "would soon be hard to read". She boarded me and that was that.

Last July I went to London. It was also hot and humid and while I kept the passport in the room all the time, I noticed it was looking a bit worse for wear. All the numbers were clear, all the info was clear, and it looked fine, but the humidity had caused a sort of light bleeding under the plastic front page and the bottom edge was bent. The BF Concierge at Gatwick noticed this and told me that I would have had a hard time getting into other countries because of this. She advised me to get a new one when I got home. She had no reason, other than it was starting to look old. I didn't think it looked bad, just showing its normal wear and tear, so I didn't listen. (I have a hard head.)

Recently,when I boarded a plane in Houston going to Cancun, the gate agent pulled me aside. She flat out told me that if I were going to El Salvador or a few other Latin American countries, they wouldn't let me in the country. Apparantly the passport wouldn't scan- when you run it through the machine it has to be redone by hand (the number has to be put in manually.). This was the thrid Continental gate agent to stop me and comment on my passport, but the only one to tell me WHY it should be replaced.

I just applied for a new one as we're leaving for Europe soon and while being shocked at the price for an expedited passport, I was greatful that the last gate agent had stopped to tell me the problem. What I wonder is, how many of you frequent travelers have the same problem. If not, how do you keep your passport from showing signs of wear and tear? I've got a very long travel year ahead and I don't want this to happen again. Those CO agents all knew something was wrong but only one of them bothered to tell me why.

As frequent fliers, many of you must travel internationally as often if not more, than I do. I'm curious as to whether or not gate agents have commented on your passports, or mentioned countries that wouldn't take them? I was especially curious as to why the GA mentioned certain countries that wouldn't allow non-scanable passports. Is there a list somewhere?

This all kind of came at me out of left field and I just wonder if anyone else has dealt with it?
thaliajen is offline  
Old Feb 19, 08, 1:12 am
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I don't know but I've travelled with a friend who's passport has been soaked in water, spilt coffee on, stepped on etc (backpacking can do this to you) and had no problems getting into any country.

If the numbers/letters in front are readable there is no reason that a passport information can't be hand-inputted instead of scanned. Sure, it might take the immigration officer a little longer but to deny you entry just for having a passport that has been used a lot would be overkill
blahter is offline  
Old Feb 19, 08, 1:28 am
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My advice would be to get a passport holder. A passport holder resembles a portrait sized wallet in which you can slip your passport into. I use one and I like it because the entire holder fits more comfortably into clothes or other pouches or cases with your carryons. Passsport holders definitely protect your passport from being dinged and a snug holder will keep your passport flat. Passport holders will also allow you to carry a passport discreetly yet having it exposed while you are waiting at immigration counters. Perhaps you can get one for your new passport, when that arrives.
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Old Feb 19, 08, 3:38 am
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CO is fined thousands of dollars every year for a variety of Immigration problems. No visas, incorrect visas, unreadable passports, expired passports and passports that look like they have been tampered with. Suspected tampering can be anything the Official wishes it to be; ink bleeding, plastic coating bubbling, tears on the face page which might mean that the photo has been removed or substituted.

We are required to inspect your passport. We do not wish to see you stopped, delayed or refused entry in your next foreign destination. Some countries are stricter than others.
sfogate is offline  
Old Feb 19, 08, 7:59 am
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I had a similar series of comments with my older passport - the laminated type, not the one with the picture printed onto the cover page - and it was definitely starting to wear out. I wasn't travelling internationally enough to really make it matter for me and it was 8 years in, plus I wanted to renew prior to the RFIDs were pervasive, so I got a new one, and that was the end of that. Ironically, when I took it to the post office for the renewal they said that they didn't see a reason for me to renew early.
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Old Feb 19, 08, 11:15 am
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I've never had a problem, but I do try hard to keep my passport dry and in good condition.

Slightly OT, but I do know that if you ever travel to South Africa, they require you to have two fully blank pages in your passport. If you don't - they will not allow you in the country, and will detain you in the transit area until the US Consulate can sort it out for you and add pages to your passport. That happened to a work colleague I was traveling with, and she sat in transit for 2 days over a weekend... it was an ugly mess
COFlyerCLE is offline  
Old Feb 19, 08, 8:08 pm
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As long as I don't put it through the washing machine I generally never have problems. Then again it's really only the Germans that seem annoyed by its shoddy appearance. Schnell! Schnell!

Ironing it from time to time helps as well.

Last edited by nzqjyb; Feb 19, 08 at 8:09 pm Reason: typo
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Old Feb 21, 08, 6:05 pm
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In 1999, I lost (left) all my cards, cash, and passport on a train from Budapest to Prague... so I had a new passport issued from the US Embassy in Prague... and what an ordeal that was.

Anyway, the passport is very odd. It has the passport number spelled out in holes (dots) that go through the cover, and first six pages. I had to write in the number myself on the inside. Then my photo is not laminated, just pasted in its respective place with one drop of glue. You can lift the photo on all sides.

It was only valid for two years, but I had it extended and it expires in 2009, and you have to go to page 24 to see that it was extended. My passport lacks the markings to be scanned and so data has to be entered manually.

So, I am always asked lots of questions when I travel and several immigration agents, and gate agents have suggested that I get a new one. On occasion, I've asked why I should get a new one, and in each of those instances, the reasons were generally that it makes it convenient for them.

Given that it cost money to replace the passport, I see no reason to replace it until it expires as it is perfectly valid. Additionally, I only have one page left before no more stamps can be put on, I'm on a mission to fill it up this year!

Thanks to an experienced gate agent in Amsterdam, I did learn a trick a few years ago to help agents read my passport. I have an old visa for China, and agents can scan that and it returns all the same information that the normal passport generates.
HookTheBrotherUp is offline  
Old Feb 21, 08, 6:13 pm
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Originally Posted by thaliajen View Post
This all kind of came at me out of left field and I just wonder if anyone else has dealt with it?

I was working a flight to Europe once where the agents came very close to denying boarding to a woman for this reason - but her passport truly was shot to hell. They eventually boarded her, but they did so knowing that CO would probably be fined for it - and that the woman might very well be turned away at immigration in the arrival city. It's a big no-no if the passport is not legible or lends the appearance of having been tampered with. And of course some countries require a certain number of blank pages for entry. One friend of mine was denied boarding for this reason on a flight to some African country.

In my humble opinion, those agents are doing you a favor by warning you that it could be an issue. The country that you wish to enter doesn't have to accept you, and a shoddy passport is a legit reason for refusing entry.
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Old Feb 21, 08, 6:44 pm
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I was almost denied entry into China because of a lifted corner of my passport and they told me they would not let me in the next time, made a notation in the computer, and I then had to deal with a mutilated passport - which is like starting over. I use a passport cover - still happened. Sigh.
baglady is offline  
Old Feb 21, 08, 10:05 pm
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I have never had passport issues and mine seem to get pretty beat up. However I did have a nice immigration agent sneer at my old green card coming back from Germany a few years ago. Told me it was too old and get it renewed. I carefully explained to the nice goverment employee that my green card was the type issued in the mid eighties that do not expire and therefore do not need to be renewed. He would have nothing of it and put nasty entries in my record (he claimed) denying future entry without a new green card!

You would not believe the public servant BS I had to go through to renew a non-renewable green card
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Old Feb 22, 08, 4:40 am
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Passports: They Ain't Makin' 'Em Like They Used To

I was at Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and had the opportunity to climb Dunns River Falls with friends and other tourists. No thank you. Anyway, my friend and his wife did the climb up the water fall--with their passports in the pocket of his trunks!!! They* were virtually destroyed afterwards.

*The passports; not my friends.
RNE is offline  
Old Feb 22, 08, 4:27 pm
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Originally Posted by sbm12 View Post
I had a similar series of comments with my older passport - the laminated type, not the one with the picture printed onto the cover page - and it was definitely starting to wear out.
The lamination on mine started to come off a few years ago, so I just held it place with tape. It's not totally transparent, so it's obvious. It's also clear that I'm not trying to get away with anything. If I had used totally transparent/invisible tape I could see an immigration agent being suspicious.
ralfp is offline  
Old Feb 22, 08, 6:37 pm
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Hey, fellow FTers... when you really think about it, what a quaint anachronism our passports are.... I mean, here we are, in 2008, and even with embedded chips and all, the passport officer finds a blank spot and stamps it, often illegible, just like they must have done 100 years ago!

If a country can deny you entrance because your passport will expire in less than 6 months, well what's the sense of that. Why isn't it good until the expiration date? And what happens on the expiration date... do you suddenly become something or somebody different from the day before it expired? As for blank pages, why cannot the officious agents simply tape the visa into the back page, or hand you a paper with your entrance visa? Or simply record it electronically on their computer?

What a bunch of beurocratic baloney!
RobertS975 is offline  
Old Feb 23, 08, 8:11 am
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I agree about the value of a passport holder. I actually use this leather thing I got when I enrolled in onepass that holds my plane ticket, passport, and various FF and hotel cards. It keeps my passport in good shape and always handy with my plane ticket. I don't know if they still sell these.
rlbmorton is offline  

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