The tiny rip that nearly cost me my flight.
Passport Perfect? The tiny rip that nearly cost me my flight.
By Melissa Hoyer
At times we forget how very, very important that holy grail of documents – our passport – really is.
Without it your travel plans can be derailed just like *that*, as mine nearly were on a trip to the United States.
My departure morning started innocently enough. With eight months left on my passport and a four day work trip to the US, my passport was due for its ten year renewal at the end of December. All good.
A rip van winkle covid passport sleep
I’d left it in its usual safe spot, within a special little leather folder holder where it had a Rip Van Winkle-inspired Covid sleep, following a crazily solid global nudge the years before the pandemic.
Like me, it hadn’t been anywhere exotic so I didn’t notice what was ultimately pointed out to me once at Sydney airport – a 1.5cm tear on the spine of the passport – on the page of my details and picture.
Every single number and ID detail was still absolutely legible. But it was about The Small Rip (TSR).
TSR first garnered a concerned look from a passport control officer at Sydney Airport. Customs kindly asked me to stand over ‘there’, while border security staff came to investigate, some suggesting I not fly as I could be turned away once I arrived. ‘Mate. they’re tough over there,’ said one, picturing myself surrounded by LA’s loveliest latex gloves and a film crew from ‘Border Security. The baddies.’
Anyway, I decided I had nothing to lose – apart from two days of plane travel (which I would actually love) so I bit the bullet and flew (much to the chagrin of one of the airport staff.)
Business class with Qantas
Once boarded, I avoided thinking about it in my very comfy business seat (I’d bitten the bullet with a points upgrade gift-to-self on my Qantas flight) and arriving in LA went straight to the customs hall and landed a lovely American man, who noticed said TSR and reminded me how I was lucky to be potentially allowed in.
He had also noticed a few liquid stains too (probably a few water and wine stains) to be frank.
LA Customs officials
He stared at it for five seconds; stamped it; slid it back to me and I basically bolted.
Boy, did this all teach me a lesson! Most importantly – we NEED to keep passports in as pristine condition as possible: it’s a serious legal document.
I’ve then took the very immediate and important step of RENEWING my existing passport. But you know what. I will miss my old one and all its memories. Walking the Camino trail through Spain; a 48-hour trip to Japan; driving an Aston Martin on the Millbrook Driving Ground in UK; seeing the fam in the Czech Republic; island sojourns in Fiji, Bali and Tahiti; friends’ weddings and birthdays in the US, British Virgin Isles; the UK and New Zealand; a fashion styling job in Vietnam; work trips to Chile, India and Beijing and so it goes.
Every customs stamp brings back memories.
But it’s time to start afresh and legitimize my international self for another ten years with a pristine newbie, which I applied for online.
The price of a fast passport arrival
I paid the extra $255 for an expedited arrival, just in case a travel publication required me to zip off.
Time had come to treat my passport like I did my first born. And all-newborns. With absolute kid gloves.
And that, my friends, is a holiday tip to you.