Lauren Weichman missed her honeymoon and she wants you to hear her horror story.
After their wedding, she and her new spouse boarded a Frontier flight for their much-anticipated honeymoon to Cancun. Upon landing, the giddy couple made their way to the immigration window and handed over their passports. But when Mexican authorities asked Lauren’s husband for his required visa, the couple’s honeymoon came to a premature halt. He didn’t have a visa — and the border agents rejected his entry to Mexico.
Now Lauren wants our advocacy team to find out who is to blame for this honeymoon horror story. And who will refund her missed honeymoon?
Unfortunately, like other brides before her who have had their honeymoons ruined, she isn’t going to be happy with the answers to those questions.
“If you don’t have the required documents to enter Mexico, you must leave.”
Lauren and her husband, who is Albanian, booked their honeymoon to Cancun online through Apple Vacations. As they flew to Mexico, they dreamed of the relaxing days ahead. They imagined lazing on the beach beside the crystal blue Caribbean, iced drinks in hand.
However, when they disembarked from their plane and reached passport control, a shocking situation hit the couple. Lauren’s husband did not have the required documents to enter Mexico.
In a letter to our advocacy team, which Lauren entitled “Trouble in Paradise,” she described her honeymoon horror story.
I want a refund for this honeymoon nightmare! I missed my entire honeymoon!
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 to enter Mexico was or if he had a valid green card. The airline nor Apple ever made us aware that we would need either of those.
I tried to hold back my tears.
Lauren’s husband had made a critical error in his honeymoon planning. He had never checked if he needed a visa to enter Mexico.
And he did need a visa.
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 a visa and then fly back another day.
Not the first traveler who forgot to check their visa requirements to enter Mexico
Regular readers know this couple is not the first to neglect to check their visa requirements before a flight to Mexico.
However, this couple does receive the dubious distinction of being the first couple to miss their honeymoon over this type of mistake.
My honeymoon horror story: They separated me from my husband!
When a passenger is refused entry to a foreign country, it is the responsibility of the airline to take the unwanted visitor away. So Lauren’s husband was separated from her at the immigration window and returned to Frontier Airlines. There, he awaited his rapid return home. Fortunately for him, there were additional flights going back that day. Past travelers who have contacted us have not been as lucky.
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Lauren was permitted entry to Mexico, but she chose to go back home with her new husband. However, 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.
Lauren made it through security in time, and she and her husband were reunited. Soon the dejected couple was en route back to where they had started earlier in the day. But Lauren was determined to find out who was responsible for her missed honeymoon.
No, Apple Vacations isn’t responsible for this missed honeymoon
Lauren first attempted to place the responsibility for her lost honeymoon on Apple Vacations. Her paper trail included the contract for her honeymoon package. At the top of that contract was a box that Lauren checked to confirm that she had read the information contained in the document.
When booking online, please read and accept the following terms of our Fair Trade Contract to continue with your purchase of an Apple Vacation.
The contract is quite lengthy, but I reviewed the entire document. Soon I found the information that would answer Lauren’s question of Apple’s 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.
Frontier Airlines is also not responsible for your missed honeymoon
Next, Lauren suggested to me that Frontier Airlines might be responsible for her missed honeymoon. Unfortunately, that was similarly a dead-end pursuit.
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 can hold the passenger responsible for that fine.
It seems that, while Frontier did check that Lauren’s husband had a valid passport, the representative was as unaware as he was of his need for a visa to enter Mexico.
Only you are responsible to know and have all your required entry documents for your destination
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 its stance on this subject.
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 Airlines 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 a link to this helpful tool (Timatic). The professional version of Timatic is what the airlines use to determine if a traveler is cleared for entry to their intended destination. Here, a passenger can input their specific travel information and instantly, personalized passport, visa, and health requirements will be provided to the traveler for their intended destination.
I certainly sympathize with Lauren, but there is no way to recoup any of her lost money. Unfortunately, this is an expensive lesson for the newlyweds to learn.
But hopefully telling their story can help other unaware travelers, so they don’t end up with their own “Trouble in Paradise.”
How to avoid your own missed honeymoon horror story
- Always check the U.S. Department of State’s website: U.S. citizens can determine most of their entry requirements to foreign lands by visiting the U.S. State Department’s website. Of course, the information contained there would not have avoided this missed honeymoon. Travelers with more complicated citizenship need to dig a little deeper into their requirements for international travel.
- Visit the consulate or embassy of your intended destination: This visit can be virtual or in person, but it’s critical that travelers with non-traditional citizenship visit the consulate or embassy of their intended destination. Lauren’s husband would have quickly discovered that he needed a visa to travel to Mexico with a quick online inquiry. The U.S. State Department provides information and links to most consulates worldwide.
- Bookmark VisaCentral: Many of the cruise lines have recently included a link to VisaCentral so that their passengers can check their visa needs for international cruises. And you can bookmark it and use it, too.
- Use a professional travel planner: In this case, Lauren only used an online tool to book her dream honeymoon that turned into a horror story. Had she used a professional travel advisor, she would likely have received guidance about checking entry requirements to Mexico. (Michelle Couch-Friedman, Consumer Rescue)
For more tips see also: This passport mistake will ruin your vacation every time