What happens if you lose your passport at an airport / during transit?

  • Once, when flying from India to the UK, I left my passport on the plane's seat-back pocket and forgot that I left it there until I reached the passport control desks. Fortunately in this case, I rushed back to the gate where the plane had parked and since the plane was being cleaned there, I was able to request the staff to fetch my passport for me from my seat.

    My question is: what happens if you lose your passport during transit at an airport, or before you reach the passport control desk at your destination country? I know that in any other situation, I would be able to contact my country's embassy to get an emergency travel document (ETD). What happens in this other case - can you get an ETD at the airport, or will you be deported back to the country you flew from? And in case of a deportation, are you sent back to your home country or the origin country of your previous flight? I want to know if there are any international laws covering this scenario.

    (This is all under the assumption that you have the relevant visas or travel authorisation for your destination, but they're obviously in your passport.)

    Great question, I have been wondering about this myself. Since you have entered the plane, there is some record of your identity. I guess with a copy of your passport somewhere in your luggage, things might not look so grim.

    I hardly ever carry a copy of my documents, although I do have scans stored on Dropbox. I'm not sure whether I'd be given permission to even fetch this online, or whether it is enough to get me entry / ETD. This could be part of the answer!

    There is a documented procedure for what you can do in such a situation here - http://tinyurl.com/56czx

    Actually I was in a same situation in another country where I lost my passport right before the passport control. They did not allow me to enter the country with a copy of my American passport or an ID so I was sent back with the next flight. I already had the return ticket and they just changed the date on it. It was a very bad experience!!

    Generally speaking (i.e. not after a control at the port of entry but after, e.g., a court order or a visa overstay), when deporting someone, the authorities from the deporting country would try to obtain a laisser-passez from the relevant consulate. Some people therefore get rid of their passport/try to avoid revealing their citizenship/pretend they come from an uncooperative or otherwise difficult-to-expel-to country as a (obviously desperate) tactic to avoid deportation.

    @Relaxed that's laissez- (imperative) passer (infinitive): allow to pass. "Laisser passez" means "to allow, pass!" (ok, not really, but still).

    @phoog That's a typo, I don't need a French grammar course, thank you.

  • As Andra said in his answer, there is no general rule here. Anyway out of personal experiences as an airline staff for years I have seen this pattern:

    Arriving at a foreign country, departing from home:

    Most likely you will be deported back in the same airplane. There are cases where authorities will allow you if you have a valid ID or you have managed to get an emergency travel document from your embassy, but that's if you are lucky enough or your embassy is really helpful.

    Arriving home, departing from a foreign country:

    You will be able to enter.

    Arriving at a foreign country, departing from a foreign country:

    This is a problem, most likely you will not be allowed to enter, and if you are to be deported in the same plane then you will face the same problem when you arrive back! If you can afford to buy a ticket to your home country on the spot, you will be put on the first plane to your home.

    Anyway, arranging an emergency travel document will solve your problem, but again this is not as easy as it seems always.

    The same thing goes for the transit passengers as long as they will pass the passport control and eventually they will reach a destination without a passport and face the same.

    In any of the above cases you will definitely have lots of questions from the immigration/customs. Finally, Always remember, there are exceptions to every rule.

    re:"arriving home" - this has a much higher chance of working if "home" is where you have citizenship (which also means that people with no citizenship should avoid losing their travel documents).

    I actually meant with home as the country of your nationality. And if you are stateless I agree with you totally..

    If the airport is a bit broken, you can trigger this kind of problem on a domestic - domestic flight connection! See this flytalk thread for the details for a few UK airports...

    As someone in the buisness you should know an airplane doesn't go back and forth to the same destination but changes them all the times. So your assumption that you will go back to the same plane is wrong.

    @ronen you are wrong, the plane is usually the same unless it's a base for the airline. "As someone in the business" my ass.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM