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Recently, one of my clients asked us an interesting question that was both surprising yet intriguing. The client wanted to know whether they would need to carry their passports for their holiday travel to Dubai. My client reasoned that since we, their travel agents, had a scanned copy of their ‘bio’ and ‘occupation pages’ of their passports on record - details that had been passed on to the airline, the excursion teams as well as the hotel - then there would be no reason to physically carry this highly valued travel document, and probably loose it while traveling. Their reasoning made a lot of sense to me. In this age of technology, and satellites and tracking devices and drones, I would think that anybody traveling to anywhere in the world can be tracked at a moment’s notice and their identities verified with just a click of a button. But despite all these, I still went ahead and advised my clients to carry their passports anyway, because I know not of any airport in the world that will let you get into an international flight without a valid passport.
When I do a quick google check, Wikipedia tells me that a passport is a travel document, usually issued by a country's government, that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder primarily for the purpose of international travel. Your passport therefore enables your travel agent to prepare your travel meticulously and advice you accordingly, on your impending travel. Here is why we require to have a copy of your passport, before planning your travel.
Your passport is the most reliable form of identification for airlines, airport authorities and immigration counters around the world. A Kenyan passport is issued by the Kenyan government and is almost impossible to forge. We therefore require your passport details with us to ensure your smooth exit and entry into the intended international territory. When a new client calls on us for an airline quote for their international travel, the first thing we will always do is ask them to send to us a scanned copy of the ‘bio page’ of their passport. The bio page gives us the correct passenger names, their passport number, the date of expiry of the passport and their nationality.
The correct passport name allows us to reserve a booking on the airline quoted, and provide you, the frequent flier, with a deadline with which you must make a decision on the airline you would like to travel on. With this reservation, we ensure that you do not lose the fare we have quoted to you, and that we reserve a seat on the plane for you for a certain period of time. We therefore give you a ticketing deadline. An airline ticket must have the correct passport names. These names must match those on the passport. If they do not match, then the airline will not allow you to board the plane, even if your names are just slightly mismatched. Changing the name on your ticket at check-in can prove to be very expensive. You may have to pay a penalty to the airline, or even lose your fare and seat altogether. On a light note, wouldn’t you rather have your Travel agent meet the penalty cost for not putting in your correct names? Please do provide your passport copies whenever your travel agent asks for it. Here is a tip for the frequent flier, reserving an airline booking can be done by your travel agent at no extra charge to you and if you choose not to travel or pick that particular airline, the reservation is cancelled by the airline once the deadline given is reached.
When it comes to the dates on your passport, the expiry date will tell us whether your passport is valid for your international travel. For international travel, your passport needs a validity of a minimum of 6 months to the expiry date. We find that our clients hardly ever keep up with this information, and it is therefore our duty to keep track and inform the client on the pending renewal, when the passport is approaching the 6 months’ validity and or the expiry date. We do this well in advance of all overseas travel.
The passport also tells us of your nationality which is important when booking your accommodation in a hotel. Most of the hotels in Kenya have resident as well as non-resident rates. On check-in, they will require to see the guest’s passport as proof that the money paid beforehand for the hotel room was paid using the correct Nationality rate. Note that the non-resident rate is usually much higher than the rate of a resident or a Kenyan citizen. Cases of fraud are therefore common and so most hotels will require to see your passport before check-in.
Further, your nationality tells us whether your international travel will require a visa. If transiting through certain airports, we will advise you on whether you will need a transit visa as well. For example, if you are travelling to the United States from Kenya on a Kenyan Passport (which means you have a valid US visa) and transiting through London, then you might need to apply for a visitor-in-transit-visa, most especially if you will need to leave the main airport building for any reason. Always ensure that your passport has a minimum of two empty pages. This ensures that border control has a spot to put the necessary entry and exit stamps that will inevitably be issued when entering or exiting a new country.
Your passport is of utmost importance in a case of international travel where your citizenship may be in question. In such a case, your passport is able to show the authorities of your true citizenship and clear up any confusion quickly. For a Kenyan Citizen, having this proof while traveling in another country is important in identifying you if you get injured and need medical care. Crucially, it is also necessary to have a passport to be allowed to re-enter Kenya J.
Finally, and for our frequent travelers, a passport shows us the pages of the stamps and visas of the countries you have previously travelled to. It therefore gives us a picture of where you have been and will allow us to give you the best recommendation of the places you have not been to place on your bucket list!
The Author is the Founder and CEO of Saffara Ltd
This article was published in the East African Newspaper on the week of Monday the 4th of September