Spirit Airlines has been forced to issue a grovelling apology to a Puerto Rican family after an airport agent at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) accidentally refused to let them board a flight to Puerto Rico because their two-year-old child didn’t have a passport.
The airport agent appears to have mistakenly thought that Puerto Rico was an international destination and, as such, required passengers to have a passport as a condition of entry.
In fact, Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Federal laws apply in Puerto Rico as they do across the contiguous United States, Alaska and Hawaii, and American citizens don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico.
Marivi Roman Torres was traveling with husband Luís and their two-year-old son Alejandro at the end of April when they were stopped at the check-in counter at LAX.
“At first [the Spirit employee] told me, ‘This is an international flight,’” Torres recounted to CBS News. “I asked her if there was anything that I can do, because I for sure know that I don’t need a passport to go to Puerto Rico.”
All attempts to convince the Spirit Airlines staff that Luis didn’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico, and in the end, the family had to buy a last-minute ticket with JetBlue in order to get home.
Spirit has since issued a sincere apology to the family saying its airport agent at LAX was confused.
“Spirit has a long history of serving Puerto Rico, and we offer about 25 daily flights to three destinations on the island,” a spokesperson for the budget carrier explained.
“In this specific case, an agent at LAX who is new to the position misunderstood the identification requirements. We are providing the agent with additional coaching and reiterating proper procedure.”
“We sincerely apologize to our guest and their family for the inconvenience, and we issued a refund for the tickets and provided them with future travel vouchers,” a statement from Spirit continued.
For the uninitiated, Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean Sea, between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands and it is officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Along with Puerto Rico, U.S. citizens don’t need a passport to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.
You forgot the US Territory of Guam. They are also US citizens and where US citizens you do not need a passport if traveling via Hawaii.
@Vince thats not true, you do need a passport to visit Guam. In fact on your return flight from GUM to HNL you have to go through US CBP just like any arriving international flight.
Directly from USCBP: “ U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR’s) who travel directly from U.S. territories to the United States, which include American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands without touching at a foreign port or place, are not required to present a valid U.S. Passport or U.S. Green Card. Here’s the rules directly from USCBP website.”