When Lauren Weichmann took off on her five-day honeymoon to Mexico, she never imagined that she would be returning home later that same day. But her husband possessed no visa to enter Mexico and was denied entry at the customs window. Now Weichmann wants to know: Who is to blame for her honeymoon fiasco, and how can she get reimbursed?
Unfortunately, she isn’t going to like the answers to those questions.
No visa. No entry
Weichmann and her husband, who is Albanian, booked their honeymoon to Cancún online through Apple Vacations. As they flew to Mexico, they dreamed of the relaxing days ahead — lazing on the beach beside the crystal blue Caribbean, iced drinks in hand.
However, when they disembarked from their plane and reached passport control, they were quickly jolted into a different reality. In a letter to our advocacy team, which Weichmann titled “Trouble in Paradise,” she describes what happened next:
We went through passport control, and we handed over our documents with smiles. I gave my passport, and my husband gave his along with the work authorization card/travel card. The man kept asking my husband where his visa or green card was. We were never made aware that we would need either of those. I tried to hold back my tears.
Weichmann’s husband had no visa to enter Mexico. And he needed one. The Mexican authorities informed him that he would be returning on the same plane on which he had just arrived. He would need to fly home, apply for and receive a visa and then fly back another day.
When a passenger is refused entry to a foreign country, it is the responsibility of the airline to take the unwanted visitor back. So Weichmann’s husband was separated from her and returned to Frontier Airlines to wait for his flight home.
Although Weichman was permitted entry to Mexico, she chose to go back home with her new husband. She did not qualify for the free expedited return that her husband was receiving. The Mexican authorities directed her to enter the airport and purchase her return flight. She explained:
Everyone was smiling and laughing either coming back from vacation or going there with their loved ones. My face was the only one stained with tears and puffy. They made me go all the way around to buy my ticket back to America, separate from my husband. I asked the man at the Frontier counter if I was going to make the flight. I only had 20 minutes to get through security and make it through the gate. He said only if I run and laughed at me.
Weichmann made it through security, and she and her husband were soon en route back to where they had started earlier in the day.
So who is responsible for this lost honeymoon?
Weichmann’s paper trail included the contract for her honeymoon package. At the top of Apple Vacation’s Fair Trade Contract it reads, “When booking online, please read and accept the following terms of our Fair Trade Contract to continue with your purchase of an Apple Vacation.”
This contract is quite lengthy, but I reviewed the entire document and found the information that would answer Weichmann’s question of responsibility.
13. INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL AND DENIAL OF ENTRY: Passengers traveling to any international destination must have a valid passport and, for non-U.S. citizens valid entry documents (See ‘Things to Know Before You Go’) Apple Vacations is not responsible for any passenger who is unable to travel as a result of their failure to have the required travel documents, or is denied entry to any country or re-entry into the U.S.
Additionally, under travel tips, this contract says: “If you are not a U.S. citizen, contact the embassy of the country to which you are traveling to determine required entry documents.”
Apple Vacations makes it clear that it takes no responsibility if you arrive in a foreign land without the documents that you need.
Next, Weichmann suggested that Frontier Airlines might be responsible.
Another dead end
Frontier Airlines has a disclaimer on its website that is even more direct with the traveler:
It’s your responsibility to know what additional documentation is required for entry into any foreign country to which you are flying. So, please do your homework! For travel documentation entry requirements, including visa requirements for other countries, please contact that country’s consulate for information.
Additionally, the contract of carriage warns:
A passenger shall indemnify Frontier from any loss, damage, or expense suffered or incurred by Frontier by reason of the passenger’s failure to possess any required travel documents or other failure to comply with the provisions of this section, including the applicable fare if Frontier is required to transport the passenger home from a country. Frontier is not liable to a passenger for loss or expense due to the passenger’s failure to comply with this provision.
So, if Frontier should receive any fine for transporting a passenger to a foreign country who does not possess the required entry documents, it will hold the passenger responsible for that fine.
It seems that, while Frontier did check that Weichmann’s husband had a valid passport, the representative was as unaware as he was of his need for a visa to enter Mexico.
But, can an airline be fined for allowing a passenger to fly internationally without all the proper documents?
The answer is yes.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), globally, airlines are fined an average of $3,500 per passenger in these situations.
IATA does point out; however, that a passenger’s visa status is often hard for an airline to verify.
Frontier’s policy may seem a little harsh, but if we take a quick look at the contract of carriage of some of the other major airlines, Frontier is not alone in their stance on this subject.
For instance, United Airlines contract of carriage “Rule 19 Travel Documents” reads:
Each passenger desiring transportation across any international boundary is responsible for obtaining and presenting all necessary travel documents.
It goes on to say that a passenger will be liable if United suffers a loss, damage or expense of any kind because of a passenger’s failure to produce valid travel documents.
Both the American Airlines and the United Airlines sites provide passengers with a helpful online tool provided by the IATA. Here, a passenger can input their specific travel information. Instantly, personalized passport, visa, and health requirements will be provided to the traveler for their intended destination.
How to avoid border rejection
A great website to visit before your next international trip is the U.S. Department of State.
Here you will find a plethora of information about any country you are planning to visit; along with entry requirements for a U.S. citizen. If you are not a U.S. citizen and need specific information about your entry requirements, the links to the consular office of each country are given as well. In Weichmann’s case, a visit to this site would have led her to the Mexican consulate. She would have discovered that her husband was in need of a visa to travel on their honeymoon.
We certainly sympathize with Weichmann, but we can’t recoup any of her lost money. Unfortunately, this is an expensive lesson for the newlyweds to learn. Hopefully telling their story can help other unaware travelers, so they don’t end up with “Trouble in Paradise.”