March 10, 2017 8:39 pm

Expedia customers from Toronto denied entry to St. Lucia due to passport

WATCH ABOVE: A valid passport may not be good enough in some countries. Sean O'Shea reports.

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A Toronto couple who paid more than $5,000 for a trip to St. Lucia were denied entry because one of their passports was less than three months from expiring.

Sean Skinner and his girlfriend Laura planned a one-week vacation to the Caribbean island last September through Expedia.

“When the website didn’t prove to be too user-friendly, (Laura) called and spoke to them on the phone,” Skinner, who works in the IT industry, said.

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READ MORE: Couple denied flight after passport problem compensated after Global News report

In mid-February, the couple travelled from Toronto with high hopes of a relaxing vacation. But when they arrived in Trinidad to change flights, they got bad news. Airline representatives informed Skinner he was inadmissible to St. Lucia because his passport did not have a minimum validity of six months, an immigration requirement.

“Quite frankly, I was boiling,” Skinner told Global News, who said he didn’t know of the requirement. He said Expedia, a licensed travel agent in Ontario, did not inform him.

“At no point was there a pop-up or notice that your passport should be valid for six months,” he said.

READ MORE: Tips for crossing the border without a hassle

Skinner said if he knew about the regulation in September, he would have gotten a new passport in order to comply with St. Lucia’s rules.

Ontario’s Travel Industry Act stipulates that travel agents are obligated to clearly inform consumers about the need to have appropriate travel documents.

“If it’s out of country, passport disclosure is absolutely fundamental,” said Richard Smart, CEO of the Travel Industry Council of Ontario.

“We’d expect it be clearly disclosed in the terms and conditions.”

When contacted by Global News, Expedia agreed to investigate Skinner’s file and did so over several days.

The company said when someone books international travel, a message would appear advising the customer about the need to have a passport valid for at least six months. It showed an example of such a message that displays the alert.

Skinner said he saw no such advice when he booked the ticket online last fall.

“There was no awareness created whatsoever,” Skinner said.

“We think we are fully compliant, we think we did the right thing,” Sarah Gavin, vice president of global communications for Expedia, said in a telephone interview.

Gavin said there have been problems in the past ensuring that consumers are informed about passport rules and that, as a result, Expedia goes to great lengths to inform customers.

“We are investigating what happened,” she said, adding it’s “not acceptable” if consumers aren’t fully informed.

She said the company is always trying to improve how it communicates with consumers and will look at the idea of adding the notification to the travel itinerary.

After Global News brought the case to their attention, Expedia offered to reimburse Skinner half the value of the hotel portion of the trip, about $1,712.

Skinner said he has replaced his passport and won’t travel again with one nearing expiry. He’s warning other consumers not to be caught the way he was and to be aware they might not have all the information they need from a travel agent.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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