What should have been a trip of a lifetime for Amy Strettle and seven-year-old son James became memorable for all the wrong reasons when James’ passport went missing between the departure gate and boarding the plane at Manchester Airport.
But thanks to a host of helpful staff at the airline, passport office, pharmacy, and even at the cattery, they were able to make the holiday and enjoy their dream break with extended family.
"Everyone was crying”
Amy, 33, from Fulwood, said: "I had the passport in my hand at the gate and then while we went to the seat. When I came to put it in a bag, I couldn’t find it.
"The plane was delayed for 45 minutes while we looked. Every single passenger was up, looking for us.
“They even got an engineer out, but nobody could find it. Eventually the head air hostess had to come over and asked us to get off the plane.
"Everyone was crying – us, the other passengers and the air hostesses."
“The worst thing”
Amy said James was fully aware of everything and was “gutted” to have to come off the aircraft.
She said: “That was the worst thing. He was crying as he got off the plane and I had caused him to miss out on Florida. I wished it had been my passport.”
Amy said the airline looked after them well, even stopping the plane in Florida and stripping back the interior. But still the passport wasn’t found.
Their two week trip –meant to be on Saturday, February 8, meant Amy and James had an agonising wait over the weekend before they could apply for a new passport.
Amy was told children’s passports take a minimum seven days to process and thought it was “game over”, until she was able to get a Monday morning appointment for the Liverpool Passport Office, who agreed to process the new passport the same day.
She said: “I was so relieved I wept there and then. There was still hope in getting to Disney.”
Luck is changing
That day Amy spent hours on the phone making new arrangements, with staff at DDL Davies Pharmacy in Plungington working late to do new last-minute Covid tests, and even Landorn Cattery altering their hours to re-accomodate Amy’s cat.
On the Tuesday, mum and son were back at Manchester airport – but the drama wasn’t over – James’ visa had his old passport number on.
Amy applied for a new visa online, hoping to hear back before check-in closed, but it wasn’t to be.
The check-in closed and she was offered a seat on the New York flight later in the day, in the hope the visa application would be verified by then.
Amy added: “Just as we were booking the flight change, the visa came back, 10 minutes after check-in had closed.
"The duty supervisor contacted the Captain of the flight and they very kindly agreed to allow us to board late.”
She said: “We made it to Florida and had an amazing, magical holiday. After such a traumatic weekend and thinking all hope of making it there was lost, we made it.
"It would not have been possible if it wasn't for the various staff at the passport office, the duty supervisor and customer service staff at Virgin and the captain and crew. Their kindness and going the extra mile turned a horrific event into a happy ending.”