MINNEAPOLIS -- Stan Johnson couldn't wait to go to Cancun, but when he went to the airport on Saturday morning with his wife and 8-year-old daughter, he was not able to put the cold and snow behind him.
Johnson's wife and daughter got on the plane. Stan did not.
"I was beyond frustrated," he recalls.
Johnson says agents at the Sun Country ticket counter tried to swipe his passport four times without success.
"He (the manager) had told me, 'I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do. We cannot let you fly if it doesn't read on the scanner,'" Johnson told KARE 11.
Airline expert Terry Trippler tells KARE 11 that if a flier gets to an international destination and his passport won't scan, he or she could be sent back to the U.S. Perhaps more importantly, the airline faces a hefty fine. Johnson says the ticket agent told him the same thing.
Stan and his wife have been to Mexico twice before on their passports, which don't expire for three years. They've never had a problem, but Johnson says they've never had their passports scanned either. Stan said his passport, which was perfectly readable and in pretty good condition, has passed through the washing machine once. But his wife's did too, in the same load of laundry, and her document scanned flawlessly on Saturday.
Johnson waited through the lonely weekend and headed down to the passport office first thing Monday morning. He says he didn't get much in the way of answers, but he did get a new passport that would be ready that afternoon. He also managed to buy a one way ticket on a different airline that leaves for Cancun on Tuesday.
"I lost half of my vacation, plus I've got (an additional) $170 for the expedited passport and another $250 for a one way ticket," he explained.
The money is one thing, but what really has Johnson frustrated was the time he was missing with his family.
A representative with U.S. Dept. of State said he couldn't comment on the case, citing confidentiality rules. He wouldn't comment either way when asked if this was a common problem. Sun Country did not return multiple requests for comment.
When Johnson returned to the passport office, he says he asked a worker how he could be sure that this new passport would work at the ticket counter the next day. She scanned and checked it at the office for him.
That's the lesson learned. If you're unsure whether or not your passport will work, have it checked at the passport office ahead of time. It could save you time, money and perhaps, it could save you one tremendous headache.
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