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April 19th, 2007
Here is an sad but interesting tale. It is a story of a mother and daughter refused entry to Costa Rica.
One of the companies I own deals with tourists coming to visit Costa Rica. This often involves having one of my people meet them at the airport. This is normally no big deal. We give them detailed instructions and nearly always, we are able to hook up without issue.
So it was odd that we sent a rep to the Liberia airport to meet a woman traveling with her 14 year old daughter. Often our customers are also being met by a tour company, so in this case, our rep met them and they both waited for the arrival of our mutual clients. After waiting an hour, it was clear they were not coming, so the tour agent and our rep left the airport.
Later that day, I received a phone call from a very, very unhappy customer calling me from Houston.
It seems that when she and her daughter arrived, the immigration official did not like the condition of the photo on the mother’s passport. She then spoke to a person who she thought was a representative of Continental Airlines who gave her the bad news that she could not enter Costa Rica and must immediately re-board the Continental flight and return to the city of her departure, in this case, Houston.
She asked to contact the US Embassy, but that request was refused. She also call her Senator, but was told she could not wait in Costa Rica and must leave the country forthwith.
She detailed this adventure to me in an email that I have included for all to read. See below.
Now this really amazes me! Here is a 50 something year old woman traveling with a minor child on their first visit to Costa Rica. Why did this have to happen? More important, how? As she points out in her email, her passport was examined at least four times during her flights from Boston to Houston and from Houston to Costa Rica. Presumably, the employees of Continental Airlines not to mention the Homeland Security people have been trained to recognize potential or real passport issues and deal with them while the traveler is still in their home country. Alas, not.
They were hustled back on the Continental flight and summarily expelled from Costa Rica.
Now I fully understand that all countries have rules about passports, and Costa Rica certainly is within their rights to refuse entry to any and all at their discretion.
Saying that, Costa Rica depends on tourism and to treat this woman and her daughter in this manner, was to me at best poorly thought out and at the worst, just another case of making people feel unwelcome in this country. That is just not good business.
This story does have a somewhat happy ending though. Continental gave them two round trip tickets to Costa Rica (but did not have the common courtesy of paying for the four nights they had to stay in a hotel in Houston in order to get a new passport for the mother). This despite the fact that Continental clearly screwed up by not dealing with this while the woman was still in Boston or Houston! This occured last Friday, so the federal offices were closed over the weekend and on Monday, Washington DC was locked up with bad weather and the feds in Houston could not communicate with Washington to get this resolved.
In any case, they arrived on Tuesday and are happily enjoying their stay in Guanacaste. They were also apparently able to add the lost days back on their schedule so they will be able to enjoy their full eight days in paradise.
Here is her email to me:
My 14 year old daughter and I flew out of Boston on Friday the 13th. ( Maybe traveling on Friday the 13th was our first mistake.)
After going through at least 4 passport check points on our journey to Costa Rica, upon arrival at the Liberia airport my passport was taken from me at immigration. At that time I was not told what was wrong and told to wait 5 minutes.
A woman that appeared to work for the airline returned and told me that my daughter and I were being sent back to the states on the flight we just disembarked from.
My passport picture looked as if an area of my eye had peeled. The passport issue date was flaking. The immigration official removed it. (This is the first time I ever traveled out of the country with a copy of the front page of my passport. This shows the askew issue date.) Expiration date was perfectly clear along with the stamps from other trips. I have taken.
I asked to speak with the American consulate and was told that was 4 hours away in San Jose and I was not leaving the airport, I was returning immediately. I was not allowed to speak with the person making the decision after several requests.
I placed a call to a US Senator but, was not allowed to wait for the return phone call. The airlines representative acted as if he worked for immigration and said we were leaving the country immediatly.
Upon arrival back in the US, several customs and immigration officials expressed great surprise that my passport was denied after they looked at it.
Hope to be able to obtain a new passport tomorrow and return to Costa Rica on Monday.
Tagged:continental airlinesFiled under Costa Rica, Costa Rica Tourism, Immigration & Residency, Rants, Travel | Comments (11)