Refused boarding: Don’t make the same mistakes when flying to Europe

May 27, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


Following months of lockdown and a worldwide travel ban, British travellers are now able to take to the skies again. Even after more than a year of the pandemic, rules and regulations around travel are very different to what we’re used to in pre-COVID times, and are changing all the time.

Related: All 12 countries and territories that are on the UK’s green list

This has resulted in a number British passengers having unexpected problems when it comes to boarding a flight due to either minor discrepancies when filling out the required forms to enter the destination country, or simply for not having the correct mask or COVID test.

If you are travelling this summer, make sure you don’t make these mistakes.


Obtaining a negative covid test before travel abroad is the new reality of travel this summer with countries wanting some level of comfort that British travellers are not bringing COVID-19 with them on their holiday.

An NHS worker was due to fly to Dublin (DUB), Ireland on 21 May from Birmingham (BHX) Airport. She was aware of the requirement to provide a negative PCR COVID test as she was regularly tested at her workplace.

A problem arose however, when the traveller presented this workplace test at Birmingham Airport to board her flight. While the test was sufficient for her employer, she did not have a letter from a private test company with the letters ‘PCR’ on the test results and was denied boarding.

She tried to argue that the NHS test she had done was indeed a PCR test, however, the airline refused to allow her on the flight, advising that NHS tests could not be used for travel.

Travellers should not use free NHS tests for travel purposes, regardless of the high cost of private tests.

Related: Italy reopens to British tourists with a negative COVID-19 test result


Wearing masks when flying has been made mandatory by airlines around the world in light of the pandemic, with strict enforcement and penalties when masks are not worn by passengers. Some airlines have specific rules around the kind of masks that may or may not be worn inflight.

In the summer of 2020, the French government issued a decree stipulating that the only masks permitted to be worn on international and domestic flights are disposable surgical masks, as reports local media outlet The Connexion.

Related: TPG UK readers share their top tips for visiting France

This means that even masks that may be deemed to be safer, as well as the common material face-covering style masks are not permitted. Failure to wear the correct mask can result in denied boarding.

There have been cases where passengers intending to travel back to the U.K. from Bordeaux (BOD), as well as from the U.K. to France were not wearing the blue surgical face masks and were told that failure to do so would mean they would not be allowed to fly.


The Passenger Locator Form (PLF), which the Greek government introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic, is used to locate passengers in case of emergencies, and for tracing and tracking for should there be spikes in transmission on certain flights.

The form must be filled out online at least 24 hours before travel to Greece commences. Passengers will then receive a QR code which needs to be printed out or downloaded so it can be presented to check-in staff at the departure airport in the U.K.

As simple and fair as that may seem, several passengers have been refused travel by their airline at U.K. airports for issues with the form.

The most shocking example of this is when 28 passengers were offloaded from a Wizz Air flight bound to Athens (ATH) from London Luton (LTN) on 6 August last year, as reports The Independent. Two such passengers due to depart on W9 4467 were offloaded simply for not including the middle initial of their names on the form, despite clear instructions on the form stating that including it is indeed optional.

Wizz Air told The Independent that discrepancies with the form would mean being denied boarding: “Passengers who do not complete the form or do so incorrectly will be refused carriage and are not entitled to compensation.”

The couple then spent hundreds of pounds on a taxi to Heathrow and new flights to Greece with British Airways.

Related: The 10 top spots in Greece for Brits

Since then, Wizz has confirmed to The Independent that it has decided to investigate the matter further: “As a matter of priority, the airline is investigating whether any passengers were wrongfully denied carriage on the W9 4467 flight as a result of not including a middle name on their PLF, despite correctly completing the rest of the form. Should there be any affected passengers, Wizz Air will contact them directly to apologise and offer the relevant compensation, as well as the options of rebooking or refunding their ticket.”

On another Greece-bound flight, this time an EasyJet flight from London Gatwick (LGW), passengers faced similar issues. One of the affected passengers explained to the BBC: “The government website is unclear. The other couple who were refused boarding hadn’t even heard about the forms.”

Airlines are likely being overcautious in the U.K. and denying boarding because if passengers get turned away at the Greek border for incomplete or incorrect PLF forms, it is the duty of the airline to get those passengers safely back to the U.K.

Related: What happens when you land in a country without entry rights?

A spokesperson for EasyJet told the BBC, “If passengers were refused entry to Greece at the country’s border control, airlines were obliged to ensure the customer’s safe return.”

Bottom line

If you’re planning on travelling abroad during the pandemic, make sure to be meticulous when filling out any new forms. In addition, ensure you do your research on the current policies regarding pre and post COVID-testing, masks for your airline and destination country to make sure you don’t find yourself in the same situation as many passengers who’ve tried to travel to Ireland, Greece and France.

Featured image by Westend61

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