Family Nightmare at the Airport

July 11, 2010

For months now, my family and I have been planning a trip to Belize. In the past, we've tried beach vacations, but they’re just not our cup of tea. We love ADVENTURE on our holidays! With two daughters, age 8 and 10, they’re all for it!

Just like many traveling Canadians, we decided to fly from Seattle to take advantage of cheaper flights. As we learned, that may have been a mistake!

My husband, two daughters and I arrived as the SEA-TAC airport to fly from Seattle to Belize. After entering our information into their system, an airline representative came over to talk to us. He asked if we had permission from the children’s mother to fly. I replied that while I did not change my name when we got married, I am indeed the children’s mother. He then directed us to a different counter.

The next representative asked for the children’s paperwork; we provided them with their passports we had ensured we packed. She then asked the same question, whether we had permission from the children’s mother to fly. I explained again. My last name is Scully, but I am the biological mother of the two children and the wife of the man I am traveling with. After asking me if I had read the travel instructions of the Continental Airlines website, which I had, she informed me that Belize had very strict regulations, and they would not allow us to board the plane.

In the past, I have traveled with the girls to the US, Mexico, and Costa Rica without issue.

Now, since we were taking the first flight out, this is all happening virtually in the middle of the night. It’s 4:00 am and the girls are so upset that our vacation is over before it even started. We’re frustrated and are very ready to come to a resolution on this. With all the commotion, security had actually approached us to be sure that everything was ok.

At this time, the representative we were dealing with was on the phone, talking with another representative in Houston, where we had a stop-over. They were both trying to find the policy we had allegedly missed in our research. When we tried to talk to her, she kept putting her had up to stop us from talking. For 45 minutes we stood there – not being helped, but so that they could prove why we couldn't get on the plane.

Finally, she tells us that we have to get someone to find the girls’ birth certificates in our home in BC. It’s not even 5:00 am, seriously? So my husband calls his 70 year old mother to retrieve the documents. Of course, she can’t figure out the fax machine, so we have to call our neighbour to help her out. The fax came through, as requested, and it wasn't good enough.

By now, the representatives have figured out that it actually doesn't say anywhere of this policy they are talking about - the policy that informs travelers that if the mother has a different name than the children, she must have a notarized letter from a lawyer confirming that she is indeed the mother. I argued that we had no way of preparing for this; therefore we should be allowed to board the plane. We’re still told “NO”.

With a short 25 minutes left before departure time, the supervisor appears. She makes a call and somehow, the documentation we have provided is enough and we can get on the plane. We’re all tired, exhausted, and in tears as we board the plane. So our long-awaited vacation begins.

We entered Belize with no difficulty. It was all because I didn't change my name when I got married and the girls have my husband’s last name. If you are a Canadian, your name isn't on you child’s birth certificate or their passport.

Lesson – If you are a Canadian flying from the US to anywhere, and have a different last name than your children, bring a notarized letter with you!

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