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Germany and Our Passport Issue

Our small group of 5 people just returned from a 2-week trip to Germany/Austria. On departure, one of our friends was denied checkin for the flight to Frankfurt because his passport was set to expire the end of February. Apparently, Germany has a rule that your passport cannot expire within 6 months of travel to Germany. I have never heard of this. Is this something that we should be told when booking the flight? I couldn't find anything in the fine print of our e-ticket.

Our friend had to drive to LA for an emergency passport renewal, then back to our town to book another flight. He lost 5 days (due to the weekend) and an additional $1400 (United credited him his original ticket price). Also, he had Travel Guard insurance. Is this something he could file a claim for?

Posted by
7078 posts

If his insurance had a 'for any reason' feature it might, otherwise I'd doubt it. Best for him to check with Travel Guard with that kind of question.

I may be wrong but I think Germany's rule is like the other Schengen countries - expiration date has to be at least 3 months after you leave the country. However, the airlines have their own rules and your airline may have a 6 month rule, that varies by airline.

Posted by
7078 posts

That 'official' word from the State Dept is a recommendation, not a hard and fast rule. If you click on the 'passport validity' you will read this: "Entry into any of the 26 European countries in the Schengen area for short-term tourism, a business trip, or in transit to a non-Schengen destination, requires that your passport be valid for at least three months beyond your intended date of departure. If your passport does not meet the Schengen requirements, you may be refused boarding by the airline at your point of origin or while transferring planes. You could also be denied entry when you arrive in the Schengen area. For this reason, we recommend that your passport have at least six months’validity remaining whenever you travel abroad. " Bold emphasis is mine. If they were leaving Germany in December then his passport wasn't valid for 3 months after leaving, only 2 months. The 6-month requirement is the airline's requirement, not Germany's.

Posted by
7175 posts

Six months validity is necessary for some countries, so has become a recommended minimum requirement for all travel, to avoid being caught out. Well, this is the advice from the Australian government to its passport holders.
I guess it's just another item on the pre trip checklist.

Posted by
15686 posts

My math says his passport was due to expire less than THREE months. If you just got back, you left about 2-4 weeks ago and his passport was set to expire in February.

Most countries have a rule that your passport must be valid for at least as long as the visa you get. I hate to say it so bluntly, but each traveler is responsible to find out the entry requirements for international travel.

If he had had a passport valid for, say, 5 more months and the airline had not let him board the flight, then you'd have a beef with the airline for being stricter than the country. As it is, we cannot be certain if the airline would have denied him the flight or if there is some misunderstanding between what the airline rule is and what you've reported.

United's website has guidance on this. If you go to their website, it's pretty easy to find the international travel info section, with all the information. There's a link to a form you can fill out, with your travel dates and passport date. I tried it, putting in Germany and slightly less than 3 months - the result was documents are not sufficient and an explanation "Passports and other documents accepted for entry must be valid for a minimum of 3 months beyond the period of intended stay."

Posted by
7175 posts

Even flight attendants get caught out reporting for work with not enough validity on their passports.

Posted by
1225 posts

It is something airlines and I guess countries expect you to know. I doubt insurance will cover any of it. Chalk it up to a learning experience, all be it a very expensive one.

Posted by
7724 posts

I think the discussion above overlooks an important point. Despite what the US State Dept, EU, or individual Embassy websites say about validity of a nearly expired passport, it is the airline that always makes the decision as to whether you fly.

The airline has a carriage responsibility to verify passport information, and if they let you fly and you are denied entry at the border, they have to fly you home on their dime. That does lead to applying a simplistic rule (6 months validity is common), and to a degree, it may be at the discretion of the gate agent or their supervisor in close cases. Arguing with airline personnel likely will not get you your desired result though.

Lesson learned is two points:

  1. If you have a question or concern about your passport validity, contact your airline, if they let you on the flight, you very likely will be good.
  2. If your passport is even getting close to six months until expiration, renew it.
Posted by
3994 posts

I wonder how hard it would be for the airline to flag your reservation, assuming you booked directly with the airline, when you enter your passport information into the process of buying tickets? Once you enter your passport number and expiration date you could get a little yellow caution sign linked to the EU or State Dept page if there is a problem with your expiration date and country you are flying to. This also assumes that you are booking your flight in advance and have time to fix the problem, not just a few days before an international flight.

While I'm sorry that this happened to one member of the OPs group I can understand how the infrequent international traveler just may not know the details. Many people I'm acquainted with just wouldn't know. These stricter guidelines haven't been in place and enforced consistently forever.

Last summer I overheard an agent at LAX telling one couple in front of us that their passport expiration date was "very close", less than 6 months, but she checked them in anyway and let him board. That was a United flight.

Posted by
3994 posts

Also, I've never taken an organized tour but don't tour operators send information to anyone signing up for one of their tours about passport expiration restrictions, even when airfare is purchased separately? Does this type of information come from the RS office or other tour companies when people book a tour?

Posted by
8889 posts

The three "authorities" for such information, in order of importance are:
1) The authorities of the country you are going to. It is their laws you must obey, and ultimately it is them who decide if they will let you in to their country.
2) The airline or other transport company. If a person is refused entry they have to pay to fly you back, and possibly a fine as well. They therefore err on the side of caution. Even if the law is "3 months past planned exit", the airline might say "6 months" to be on the safe side. If the airline refuses to carry you, that is a commercial decision, your only other option is to cross a land border.
3) The authorities in your own country, for example the US government. Anything they tell you is pure heresay (as are posts on this website). It has no legal authority and may be incorrect.

The Schengen Area (along with the USA and the UK) require passport details from airlines in advance. This usually means after you buy your ticket, but before you can get your boarding pass, you have to enter your passport details. If you do this online (on the airline webiste), then they should warn you if your passport is no good. I do not have the experience to say if the do so.

Posted by
3994 posts

Mrs EB in recent years when we've bought our tickets online from the airline one of the screens that you click through in the process has been to enter passport information; number and expiration date. Maybe these fields are optional but I know that we've done this step with United/Lufthansa, American/Air Berlin, Delta/Air France and Norwegian in the last three years at the time of purchasing our tickets.

Posted by
3521 posts

It is all the EU countries that have this requirement and United and every other airline does not want to get fined for letting anyone fly too close to expiration date. While not in the fine print on the actual ticket, it is easily found on United's web site.

The RS travel office keeps a close tab on your passport expiration after you have added it to your travel info for the tour you want to take. I got several pesky notices this year before my scheduled RS trip about my passport being too close to expiration for them to let me travel.

Also, since I belong to all the various airline frequent flyer programs and they all have my passport info on file as part of my profile, I received email notice from United that I would not be allowed to book any future international flights with them until I got my passport renewed. Lufthansa told me when I tried to book online that I couldn't because my passport was close to expiring.

If you just book a flight and you are not a member of the airline's frequent flyer program, you might or might not be asked for passport info at time of purchase. Either way, they will check you at the airport before boarding and will send you home if your passport does not meet their requirements which are always more strict than the requirements of the countries you want to visit.

Posted by
485 posts

For clarification, when I booked the flight for my husband and our 3 friends through United's website it didn't ask for passport info. I thought, too, that if it had, then the passenger's ticket would be red-flagged or some warning given regarding passport. Well, live and learn.

Posted by
3392 posts

I've never had to enter passport information when booking a flight to another country - Mona, I'd be curious to know when you have had to do this. I've flown internationally on both Norwegian and Delta multiple times in the last two years and did not have to enter any passport info...I booked directly with both airlines. Hmmmm......maybe there are circumstances where this is sometimes required? Now I'm going to have to google this to find out. There goes the next hour of my life! :)
In response to the original pot, it is always the responsibility of the passenger to make sure they know the rules and that their documents are in order. There is a lot of information about this online and in most travel forums, this one included, and I'm so sorry that the assumption was made that one could fly with so little time left on their passport. Expensive lesson!

Posted by
7078 posts

Depending on how you book the ticket it isn't always required to input the passport information when booking. If it isn't already in their system you will need to give it when getting your boarding pass. Unfortunately if that's when it gets discovered it's a bit too late. Lesson learned, even though it may be optional and not required when originally booking the ticket, it's best to enter it so you get notified that there's a problem before you're at the airport getting your boarding pass.

Posted by
7724 posts

I think the discussion above overlooks an important point. Despite
what the US State Dept, EU, or individual Embassy websites say about
validity of a nearly expired passport, it is the airline that always
makes the decision as to whether you fly.
The OP stated from the very beginning that United stopped the friend from flying. United did what it is supposed to do because if an airline flies a passenger into a country whose immigration doesn't admit him or her, the airline is responsible for flying that person home AT AIRLINE COST plus potential fines.

My point about the discussion overlooking an important point was not directed at the OP. but rather the discussion that ensued. While valuable to search on the various official websites of the countries you wish to visit, it becomes a moot point if the airline refuses you boarding.

In the case of the OP's friend, they were very obviously violating the rules of Germany (and EU) for entry, but if he would have had 4 months of validity, he likely would have been denied boarding as well. As I stated as a "lessons learned", contact the airline. I have seen on here, and elsewhere, a number of posts about people being denied boarding, I have yet to see a post that someone was denied entry at a border due to a nearly expired passport. This is because the Airlines take their responsibilities seriously, erring on the side of caution, and do not allow it to happen. Call the airline with questions regarding passport expiration issues.

Posted by
3994 posts

Anita we log in with our FF number then proceed to book from there. With an airline like Norwegian we made an account first since we aren't "members". With the 4 airlines we used for international flights in the past 3 years we entered our passport information as part of the clicking through the screens. This step is most likely optional on the day of booking but we always do it because we have our passports handy. When we booked our sons 4 Norwegian tickets we asked them for their passport information before we got online and entered all of their data as we booked.

We are going to buy our other son and daughter in law tickets soon and neither of them have valid passports. It shouldn't be a problem though as I believe we will be able to enter that information later when they get their passports renewed. We will make an account too for them so they can take care of that detail once they have passports. They aren't flying until June so we have time.

Posted by
9109 posts

but if he would have had 4 months of validity, he likely would have
been denied boarding as well.

I disagree. Last year I was able to fly to Vienna via Austrian Airlines (owned by Luthansa) with four months validity and had no issues. Lots of other people have shared similar stories with less than six month/more than three without hassle.

Posted by
7078 posts

Which proves it is the individual airline that sets their requirements for passport validity.

Posted by
782 posts

The 3 month rule is standard in Europe,I don't think that insurance will reimburse for your mistake.
Mˆke