I shared this on TACAweb a few weeks ago, and then remembered that i haven't shared it with you guys!
Last February, my passport was stolen on the flight back from Moscow to Beijing...Here is the story...
A few people have asked about passport issues. Earlier this year i had probably the biggest passport problem possible - mine was stolen!
It was on a plane from Moscow to Beijing, and when i got to Beijing, i realised that someone on the plane had stolen my passport, mobile phone and video camera (they were all in one travel bag. Luckily, my wallet was somewhere separate). The staff on the plane pulled my bags apart and shook all my clothing, expecting me to have just lost it. Try not to do what i did and get angry and start throwing things. I nearly lost my wallet by throwing it across the plane!
Firstly, if you land in China with no passport, don't expect them to help. The people on the gate in PEK spent about 10 minutes wandering around on their mobile phones while i made a break for it and went to immigration. They will NOT let you through, nor will they call the Embassy for help. They will just put you back on the next flight going to your previous destination (this is illegal under International Law - you should be able to contact the Embassy on request. The airline will be fined for this). they will also like to talk about you in front of your face in Chinese. A quick 'I understand' soon stops this, as well as explaining that you are not stupid, nor are you a criminal. Accept it and don't expect your luggage to follow. The airline will sort it out.
Just get back on the plane and return. When you land, generally someone at Immigration will have been told that you are on the plane with no passport, you will have to wait for all the passengers to disembark before you and someone will come to escort you off the plane. Expect to be treated like a criminal. technically, you are. As far as they are concerned, somehow you boarded a plane without a passport.
When you get off the plane, ask to speak to the Embassy. You will not be allowed to leave the airport, usually, you will not even be allowed to leave the Departure lounge. However, you WILL get to speak to the Embassy. It may not be a consul in person, it will probably be over the phone. You will have to give the number of the stolen passport, your full name, date of birth and place of birth.
When this happened to me, i spoke to a man at the British Embassy in Moscow. I spoke to him for about 10 minutes and he was lovely! He asked questions to make sure i was British (passport number, full name, date and place of birth). he also asked for my parents' phone number in the UK to check that i was who i said i was. Luckily (or not) i was born in one of the most embarrassing places in England, so no-one who was trying to pretend to be British would pretend to be born there...I had to admit where i was born. He then asked the Russian airline to allow me to call the UK to tell my parents that i was coming home. The airline confirmed the landing time and terminal and i was allowed to call my parents to get them to pick me up.
Sometimes, you will be given Emergency Travel Documents. You are supposed to have these legally, and anyone asking questions at the other end (my sister phoned pretty much every department of LHR airport and they were obsessed with these documents) will want to know about them. Naturally, if you are in the air, the person at the other end can't contact you, but sometimes the people at the airport can't grasp this fact. Other times, they will just give their permission for you to travel. The airline will still be fined a huge amount for allowing you to travel with no passport. Expect all travel to be a pain in the behind from now until you land at home. At every gate, you will be held until the gate-person can call the Embassy themselves to check that you are allowed to fly (they're covering their own backsides). Eventually, you will get on a plane back home.
When you call home before you fly, ask whoever is coming to get you to bring your birth certificate and any other identifying paperwork (my dad brought his old passport that had me on it as a child). They will probably be spoken to by someone in Immigration. Don't be worried. Immigration are just doing their job and making sure that you are legally allowed to enter the country. They also understand that you're probably thinking that you'll end up in a little room with a man with rubber gloves. They want to make the process as smooth as possible. Don't be scared of immigration in your own country!
Other countries may be different, but going through British Immigration at LHR i was asked again for the stolen passport number, my date and place of birth and my full name. They also asked for a description of my dad (who, incidentally said that he had the most original excuse ever for not going to work - I've got to repatriate my daughter!). Someone alerted the people in the office when i was at the immigration desk and they went to see my dad. After about five minutes waiting at the desk, immigration waved me through and i could go home. My luggage did not get on the same plane, so the airline couriered it to me a few days later. If your luggage is not there when you get to arrivals, go to the desk and fill in a form.
The best advice for anyone if this happens to you is to accept it. Just be calm (i know it's difficult!!) and accept that something bad has happened. It has happened, there is nothing you can do about it and there is no point overthinking the situation. Go through the right channels, and ask to see the Embassy at every turn. If you are refused, take a note of the time and place. If you can, take note of any ID number shown. It is Illegal under International Law to refuse access to the Embassy, and the Embassies take this very seriously!
Always keep a note of your passport number, and if you have any other photographic ID, keep it separate in case you need to use it later. Now, i keep a copy of my passport ID page, my visa and any other documents (invitation letter etc.) on a USB stick that i keep separately to everything else (i actually fly with it on a lanyard around my neck so that it definitely can't be stolen). This is so that if i need to, i can still prove my identity. This can also save time at Immigration if you do lose your passport. The authorites all have computers in their offices and can load up your information from the USB stick to make sure.
When you get back to your home country, go to bed! Have a good sleep! You have to report your passport (and anything else) stolen within 3 days of landing. They prefer within 24 hours. Just go to the police station taking any ID you have with you and report your passport stolen. give them the passport number and the place of theft (they will accept in the air - give them the flight number, time, departure place and destination). Your passport number is usually already on the system as a stolen passport from your entry to your home country. You need to get a reference number from the police to get a new passport.
After the whole affair, i've been told that it cost the airline £20,000 for every flight i took without a passport, and then an 'undisclosed amount' for being refused access to the Embassy. I emailed the airline and got a pretty poor apology, but i have been lead to believe that the gate-people at PEK no longer work there. It was a pain in the backside, and it was absolutely terrifying! I would like to thank Androv and Sergei on the flight back to Moscow who gave me whisky until i fell asleep! Lack of sleep and anger are the worst bits. Once you've slept and accepted the situation, you can laugh at it. I laughed my way through Moscow and UK Immigration. When they asked for passport, i just replied stolen - find the thief, find my passport...they laughed too and then took me somewhere that could help. When i went through British immigration, i asked them how much a bribe would cost...they laughed too. Keep a sense of humour! Laughing is better than crying and allows you to cope.
So, in conclusion, stay calm, keep any identifying information backed up on a portable drive and any photo ID separate to your passport. It is not a disaster, no-one is going to kill you! See the funny side of everything. Once you get over it, it makes an interesting story for the future!
*also posted on the Thomas Cook Win a Kindle competition page: http://book.flythomascook.com/news/Write-and-Win-a-Kindle--998/?aff_id=395051&mpch=ads *