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Woman asks American Airlines for refund after gate agent blocks daughter from flight due to 'passport damage'

"She had the proper documentation,” said Tina Spanos. “One gate agent chose to pick on her that day."

KIRKWOOD, Mo. — A Kirkwood woman says a major airline delayed her European trip and cost her thousands of dollars due to what they deemed a problem with her passport.

What started as a dream vacation for Tina Spanos and her daughter Zoe Prather quickly turned into a nightmare after an interaction with an American Airlines gate agent.

"She was flying from Austin,” said Tina Spanos. “I was flying from St. Louis. We were meeting in Chicago and then all going to Athens together. It was 6 a.m. and I get this call and my daughter is hysterical. I could hear the gate agent in the background going 'Just go to customer service!’ He was literally yelling at her."

"He kept staring at me and is like 'you can't go,'” said Zoe Prather. “I was like what do you mean I can't go? He was like 'your passport has damage on it.' I was like no, it doesn't!"

The issue with the passport identified by the gate agent was a small tear in the information page and fraying on the back page of Zoe’s passport.

"When the guy pointed it out to me he was like 'because there's this tear that's what's wrong with it,'” Prather said. “I was kind of like this isn't damage. Obviously, if one person through security said it was fine I don't know why he felt that way."

In an effort to remedy the situation, Tina flew her daughter to Miami, which was the closest place to get an immediate passport replacement, but according to Prather the agents told her she didn’t need a new passport.

"Every time someone saw it they said it wasn't damaged,” Prather said.

Prather said TSA accepted the passport as her form of ID when she passed through security.

The United States defines passport damage as: “A passport where the physical appearance or composition has been changed through ordinary wear or tear, carelessness, or by accidental happenstance (e.g., having been washed, torn, burned in a fire by the applicant or a third party, or mauled by an animal). Such unintentional changes may be, although not always, enough to affect the validity and usage of the passport for travel.”

American Airlines travel policy states that passports must be kept in good condition, free of any damage beyond normal wear and tear.

"I was very upset,” said Prather. "I feel like I was denied just to be denied."

After missing three days of her trip, and out $2,100, Tina and Zoe reached out to American Airlines seeking reimbursement only to receive this statement from American Airlines customer service: 

“We do feel it's fair that travelers are responsible for knowing what documentation they need prior to boarding a flight. It's not our approach to offer compensation when a passenger is denied boarding due to not having the correct travel documents. I regret any further disappointment this may cause.”

"She had the proper documentation,” Spanos said. “One gate agent chose to pick on her that day."

"We just don't have that kind of money to spend,” Prather said.

"I think they need to reimbursement all of those funds and send a letter of apology acknowledging that this was a pretty crazy situation,” Spanos said.

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