A jazz musician was forced to cancel one of the most important performances of his year due to being refused boarding at Birmingham Airport.
The celebrated artist made a mistake plenty of us could fall foul of – and claims to have lost out on thousands because of it.
Soweto Kinch, 44, an award-winning saxophonist, was due to play with his band The Black Peril at the acclaimed Jamboree Jazz club on Wednesday, September 7.
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But, the group sadly had to cancel the event as they were told at BHX that Soweto’s passport was too damaged for him to be allowed to board.
The Brit was gobsmacked by the change as he claims he flew into the UK just days before using the same passport.
Now, Soweto says that his band lost around £6,000 in income, flight costs and accommodation pay outs.
"This has stopped me from earning thousands of pounds," Soweto told BirminghamLive.
"The gig had to be called off which caused all sorts of disappointment.
"It was one of our most special gigs of the year and to have it ruined on a whim is very hard to take.
"It's not only the financial hit from not being able to perform, but the cost of our flights, the money spent on logistics and everything else – so to not be allowed to fly was really galling."
Soweto was trying to check his luggage when the staff member “disappeared” with his passport for “about 20 minutes”.
He said: "They came back and said they had noticed my passport was damaged and because of that I couldn't fly. Bear in mind I had flown into the country on this passport two days prior.
“The damage they were referring to was a rip on the picture page but it wasn't going through the picture itself or any of the wording on the page.
"I was pretty upset, as anyone in that position would be. I'm widely travelled because of the work I do. I tried to explain to the woman at the baggage desk that I'd used that passport several times recently with no problem but she just said 'I've spoken to my manager and that's the decision that's been made' and walked away.
"I was basically told that they had taken a picture of my passport and sent it to the Spanish embassy and was told I wouldn't be able to travel that day. It had been fine to travel with it all summer so it just didn't make any sense.
"My passport scanned fine on the machines so it can't have been that badly damaged, but they wouldn't even let me scan it to show them."
One member of the band was already waiting for Soweto on the plane, but the manager said they would call the police over the matter he claimed.
Soweto added: "I was just about to leave when the airport police stopped me and told me I had to stay where I was. They pulled me to one side and said I was a disruptive passenger and I couldn't leave the airport because of airport bylaws.
"I told them I'd love to see any CCTV of me apparently being disruptive. And to stop me as I'm leaving just seemed very strange.”
The musician of 20 years said that he travels from Birmingham airport every other week and didn’t understand the treatment he received.
Soweto noted: "It all just seemed very unfair and the reasons I was being given were very flimsy. I performed the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games and I do feel loved by the city – I'm Birmingham-born and raised – so to be treated like filth in this way in my home city is just really hard to take."
Ryanair maintained Soweto was correctly refused boarding as his passport was 'not valid' as a result of the damage. A spokesperson for the airline said: "This passenger was correctly refused travel from Birmingham to Barcelona (September 6) as his passport was damaged and therefore not valid for travel.”
A spokesperson for West Midlands Police added: "We were called by airport staff reporting a disruptive passenger on Tuesday (September 6). Officers spoke with the passenger who had been denied travel due to a damaged travel document. There were no criminal offences and the man left the airport."
A Birmingham Airport spokesperson told Daily Star: “We understand how upsetting this must have been for Mr Kinch, but our airline colleagues had no option but to make this decision due to his damaged passport.”
It’s important to check your passport for damage before flying as any rips, stairs or tears could result in a refusal to fly.
The gov.uk website states: “ You must replace your passport if it has more than reasonable wear and tear because you may not be allowed to travel with it.”
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