They said my passport wasn’t good enough, even though it expires January 12, 2012.
Immigration immediately put my friend and I back on a JetBlue flight without boarding passes. We were back home the same day.
Lemonovich lost a $1,284 package that included flights, hotels, and a rental car. Now what?
Let’s have a look at Costa Rica’s passport requirements. When she checked the State Department website, it offered the following rule: “For entry into Costa Rica, you must present a valid passport that will not expire for at least thirty days after arrival and a roundtrip/outbound ticket.”
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However, when I checked the State Department site, the notification had changed. It now said, “For entry into Costa Rica, you must present a valid passport that will not expire for at least three months after arrival and a roundtrip/outbound ticket.”
Lemonovich says some immigration authorities in San Jose told her it was three months — and she was six days short of that. But she couldn’t get a consistent answer.
Some people in immigration said there had to be six months before the passport expires.
One immigration man even said that if I had gone to his window, he would have let me through! I asked to speak to the American Embassy or another American and they said no.
OK, so as far as I can tell, you have the State Department changing its published requirements and Costa Rican authorities whose rules are inconsistent — or at least inconsistently applied.
What about the tour operator? And how about JetBlue, which allowed these two to board their flight?
JetBlue says it’s not their fault, even though I had to enter my passport expiration date online before I could print a boarding pass. Gate 1 had my passport information since April, but they say it’s not their fault either.
On one hand, it’s easy to see both JetBlue and Gate 1 Travel as victims, just like Lemonovich. The rules were difficult to pin down, and why should they compensate a customer for something that isn’t their fault, and that not even the State Department can nail down?
But on the flip side, you would think that a tour operator and and airline that operate in Costa Rica would be aware of these problems, and would issue a special advisory to customers to make sure their passports have at least a year before they expire.
After some more back-and-forth between her airline and tour operator, she received a $150 airline credit and a $290 refund from Gate 1 Travel.
“I suppose something is better than nothing,” she says.
(Photo: Dr. Who/Flickr)