A dad was detained in Croatia for five days after he accidentally used his stepdaughter’s passport to board a flight.
However, after he was stopped by border guards at Zagreb Airport, David realised he had taken his stepdaughter’s passport - instead of his own.
Holding just the passport belonging to his stepdaughter, 21, and no personal identification, David was detained for his entire holiday in a cell at Zagreb Airport.
He was then escorted onto his original flight home and taken by border officials at Manchester Airport who confirmed his identification based on photos of his passport and driving licence on his phone and let him go home.
‘I was simply gutted, and embarrassed’
Senior international clinical manager David, who lives in Standish, near Wigan, with nurses Alison and Katherine, said: “I was simply gutted, and embarrassed at the same time.
“I pride myself in never having the wrong things in hand luggage and always having the correct documentation, so I couldn’t believe it had happened. I think our faces said it all.
“I accept it’s half my fault for picking up the wrong passport, but you’d think that post 9/11, I wouldn’t have been able to board a plane with a female name and photo of my daughter on.
“When I finally got back to the UK, the border force at Manchester Airport couldn’t believe I got to Croatia with the wrong passport. The most perplexed was the Zagreb UK consulate as to how I’d managed to get to Croatia in the first place.
“This was a much needed break for both of us - my wife is an NHS nurse who worked all the way through the pandemic whilst I worked in clinical research - but I spent the whole time in a cell. It was gutting.”
How David ended up with the wrong passport
Both David and Alison had been looking forward to their romantic five-day break together after both working tirelessly throughout the pandemic.
Opening the drawer of the coffee table in their living room on the morning of their flight on 24 April, David had grabbed the two passports inside without checking them.
He didn’t realise at the time that he’d picked up his stepdaughter’s passport instead of his own - which was still in his laptop bag from a work trip two weeks prior.
David had to stay in a small cell for his entire holiday at Zagreb Airport while Alison lived in the Airbnb apartment they’d booked for their trip before the airport disaster.
David said: “The police officer in Zagreb was really nice - he tried to get us straight back on a flight home when he realised the mistake but, as you can imagine, no other airline would take me without a valid passport.
“He had to break the news to Alison that she would have to enter Croatia alone as he needed to lock me up.
“I was locked up on the Sunday and he was nice enough to let me out of my cell for five minutes when he was next on duty on the Tuesday, and then I was released on the Thursday and sent home.
“The owner of the Airbnb apartment that we had rented was utterly brilliant too - she waited for Alison to arrive, then stayed and had a drink with her to calm her nerves. She also phoned her everyday to check she was alright.”
‘I’m sad that my carelessness caused people to be so worried about me’
The unfortunate dad alleges that Ryanair didn’t help him after he requested help from his cell and he hasn’t heard from the airline since finally returning home on 28 April.
The Foreign Office had spoken to the police in Zagreb on his behalf to try and secure emergency documentation but as David couldn’t enter the country, there was no way of him collecting the documents.
Now relieved to be home but saddened to have missed out on his much needed holiday, David said: “I’m extremely disappointed to not have seen what looked to be a beautiful country.
“I’m sad that my carelessness caused some people to be so worried about me, giving them more stress than they deserved.
“As you can imagine, the whole time I was detained, my wife held onto the notion that I may get released but she spent our five day holiday all on her own.
“Alison and I had to use WhatsApp voice notes and pictures to communicate - we couldn’t physically speak to each other as the one time we did, both of us got too upset to continue the conversation.
“[My stepdaughter] was so worried when we told her - her mum in a new country and her stepdad in a cell. It’s not the kind of pressure you’d ever want to put on a 21-year-old.
“I will definitely go back to Croatia in the future - the police officer and the owner of the Airbnb flat demonstrated how nice Croatian people are.
“I’ll just make sure I have the right passport next time!”
What Ryanair said
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “This passenger was detained by Croatian authorities on arrival to Zagreb, following his flight from Manchester (24 April) for failing to travel with his own passport.
“It is each passenger’s responsibility to ensure they have a correct and valid passport for travel.
“Our airport handling agents incorrectly allowed this passenger to board and we have liaised with our handling agents in Manchester to ensure this error does not recur.”