A mum and daughter will not be spending Christmas with their loved ones after being turned away from their flight over a little-known travel requirement.
Odette Baxter-Booth and her daughter Maisy Bennett, 17, drove from their home in Cornwall to Heathrow Airport where they were due fly to South Africa.
After leaving on Tuesday, the pair were looking forward to spending the holidays with Odette’s fiancé Jason Dreyer and his family.
But Cornwall Live reports that their dream festive holiday turned into a nightmare when Maisy was told she couldn’t board her flight without a signed letter from her father giving his permission.
Odette, who is a hotel business development manager, said: “We couldn’t believe it – Maisy was crying her eyes out in the airport.
"She was nervous enough as we booked her holiday later than mine so we were taking separate flights to Paris two hours apart.
"We checked her bags in and she started going through security when she called out, ‘Mum! Come here!’ We were then told she needed an affidavit signed by her dad which stated he was okay with her travelling as she’s under 18.”
The trouble was Maisy’s dad and Odette’s former partner Steve Bennett was in Truro.
He agreed to sign the relevant form and get it witnessed by a solicitor and emailed to Air France, with whom mum and daughter were flying to South Africa.
However, Odette phoned the South African Embassy which said email copies weren’t acceptable – it had to be the original, signed form.
After discussing whether to delay the holiday, return to Cornwall to pick up the affidavit and pay for replacement flights, Odette decided that the logistics – and expense – were too much and so they had to cancel their Christmas holiday in the sun.
It was doubly heart-breaking for Odette as she was due to book her wedding venue with Jason while in his home country.
South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs relaxed some of its international travel requirements for children going through South African points of entry this month.
However, the need for a signed consent affidavit from an absent parent is still necessary.
South African regulations have stated since 2015 all children under the age of 18 – both local and foreigners – are required to travel with a valid passport and an unabridged (full) birth certificate stating both parents’ names.
If the child is travelling alone or with only one parent, then the child must also carry an affidavit filled out by the missing parent/s.
Odette, who was speaking to Cornwall Live from a “hideous hotel” in Hounslow, said: “I’m a seasoned traveller and Jason is from South Africa but we had no idea about this – you’d think someone would have mentioned it when we booked Maisy’s flights.
“Maisy last travelled to South Africa three and a half years ago but they changed the regulations just after that and we had no idea.”
Jason, who was driving to Port Elizabeth Airport to collect Odette and Maisy, was also devastated.
“He was really upset and said he’d pay for new flights as it wasn’t about the money, but we’d already paid well over £1,000 and the logistics of organising it again were really difficult, as it involved three flights and 40 hours of travel.
“I have to say that the airline staff were brilliant – they did everything they could and were consoling Maisy.”
Odette and Maisy, who is in her final year at Truro College, are now travelling to Manchester to stay with Odette’s brother where they will book a last minute Christmas break in the sun.
She added: “I wasn’t expecting it to be just Maisie and me celebrating Christmas together. I couldn’t face driving back to Cornwall – as much as I love Cornwall and it’s beautiful – as we’d set our hearts on a holiday in the sun.”
What about Jason – who lives in Falmouth but is originally from South Africa’s Eastern Cape – who will now be spending Christmas without his fiancée?
“We’ll just have to Facetime each other a lot over the next two weeks,” said Odette.
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