It was my birthday and I was at the airport, giddy with anticipation, for my big trip to Greece. I had wanted to go there since I was 12 years old and I was finally on my way. I started to get uneasy after wrestling with self check-in when my husband and I are passed to a yet another ticket agent for boarding passes. We had arrived a smidgen earlier than required for international flights because I couldn’t get our boarding passes to print the day before to check us in online.
You see, I had been quite chuffed with myself because not only was I early (not just on time-ish), but I also had only carry-on bags for my 9 day trip to Athens. Those two things, for those who know me, requireed celestial intervention and may have caused the earth to shift it’s axis. So imagine my horror when, after a very long pause, the agent looked at me and said, “Honey, I can’t let you on that plane.” Now, I’m certain I hadn’t heard him correctly because it was my birthday and I was going to Greece – but as he explained that I would be deported if he let me board the flight, all the color drained from my face and my head started to spin. But…it was my birthday!
My husband and I are seasoned travelers, and he booked this trip as a surprise. Oh yeah, it was a surprise alright!! I have never been turned away at the airport before. I instantly felt like the little kid at the carnival who doesn’t get to ride the cool rides because she is not big enough.
Both of us had valid passports, mine unfortunately was due to expire soon. We would have returned home long before the expiration date, but apparently not long enough. In the moment, my eyes welled up as we learned that Greece requires your passport be valid for at least 3 months beyond your return date. What?? I had never heard of anything like this before. I guess not so seasoned after all. A little something called the Schengen Borders Agreement has been in effect since March, 2006. News to me.
I fought back the tears and snapped into action. I texted my bestie to come back and pick us up while the compassionate ticket agent juggled new departure dates and slipped me the the number for the Western Regional Passport Office. Of course, as luck would have it, my birthday fell on a national holiday, so government offices were closed, AND there were two monster snow storms in the east causing flight delays and cancellations across the country. This birthday wasn’t really shaping up the way I had hoped, but I kept my chins up. Between us, we had 3 cell phones and multiple laptops all firing at once for the next 9 hours while we scrambled to salvage this trip.
Fortunately, the Western Regional Passport office is in Tucson and you can book an appointment online even if the office is closed. The very next morning I arrived in Tucson for my 11:00am appointment, and was driving back to Chandler at 2:00pm that afternoon with my brand new shiny passport. I could hardly believe it happened so fast, and what’s more is the experience was without question, the easiest and most pleasant I have ever encountered at a government agency. Everyone was cheerful and happy to help. Shocking, but true and refreshing!
When my husband and I arrived at Sky Harbor a week later to leave for our Greek Holiday – for real this time – the same kind ticket agent was working the counter. I don’t know if airline policy prohibits it or not, but he got a giant squeeze and a big sloppy kiss before I headed off to the boarding gate tickets in hand.
Leann Fernald is a designer, IFDA New Member VP, owner of Festoon Interiors LLC, new product entrepreneur and practicing plate spinner. Her back ground is varied and covers hospitality and vacation tourism, aquaculture, new business development, national sales and marketing. She is currently working on a new enterprise offering a product to the design Industry and certainly won’t stop there. You can reach Leann by email at firstname.lastname@example.org on her mobile 480-326-8450