The real cost of losing a passport

Posted on September 25 2015

A while ago a friend of ours, Justin, told us the incredible consequences of a lost passport on a business trip. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing. If you travel for business or have employees who travel for business, this story is worth the read.

First, to give you some backstory. Justin is a technical business specialist who works for Johnson Controls, a $42 billion global manufacture of diversified technology and industrial equipment. He was scheduled to travel to Brussels to attend an important meeting later in the week.

The missing passport

Justin flew out of Chicago O’Hare airport on Saturday June 13 and landed in Brussels on Sunday June 14. He used his passport to get through TSA security and at a number of checkpoints on his way to boarding the airplane.

After landing at the Brussels airport and before leaving the plane, Justin discovered that he had lost his passport. With the help of the crew members, Justin searched the entire plane. But no one could find it. 

At the international entrance to the airport, Justin informed the security people of his situation. They gave him two options: Turn around and fly back to Chicago and get a new passport and then return. Or wait until Monday in a special room in the airport, then work with the US Consulate to get a temporary one. 

Justin knew this meeting was career-defining so opted to stay and work with the United States Consulate the next day, Monday, to get a temporary passport. 

Three Days in Prison

It is likely that Justin will consider this one of his worst decisions in many years. What happened to him next is a case study in international security craziness. It is also something that could happen to anyone who loses their passport while traveling internationally.

Instead of being put into a waiting room and connected with the US consulate the next day, Justin is moved to a jail away from the airport.

Luckily, before all of his possessions are confiscated; computer, phone, travel bag, etc. Justin makes a phone call to his parents back in the United States. This has to be the luckiest call he has ever made. It starts the process that frees him three days later. 

Over the next seventy-two hours, Justin’s company, his parents, girlfriend and US Consulate fight to get him released. His girlfriend flies over to Brussels to work with the US Consulate. His company organizes a team of HR professionals and lawyers to work to free him. They even mobilize a plane to fly him back to the states.

After three days of negotiations and all other types of activities plus with many, many people working on his behalf, Justin is released under custody from the jail. He is moved to the airport and placed on a plane with his girlfriend to be flown back to the States.

The nightmare doesn't end.

Like in the Ben Affleck movie, Argo, Justin is just hoping to get the plane off the ground before anything else can go wrong. However, unlike in the movie, the plane does not move even an inch before Justin’s next ordeal begins.

Just as the plane is ready to pull away from the gate, it is boarded by a team of heavily armed anti-terrorist police. They proceed to pull Justin and his girlfriend off the plane. They search him. They search his girlfriend, the plane and more. They run him through the suspected terrorist gauntlet once again. One more time, because of a lost passport, Justin’s world is turned upside down before he is allowed back on the plane and sent home.

What’s the real cost of losing a passport?

For Justin and his company the price of this return trip to Brussels is in the tens of thousands. Not to mention the price Justin and his family paid emotionally. Justin’s monetary value to the company is $125 per hour. His overall value to the company is higher because without him at the upcoming meeting, other senior executives will be idled and their time wasted.

What did Justin’s ordeal cost his company:

  • Time 
  • Money 
  • Business 
  • Opportunity 
  • A potentially employee

The hard dollar costs:

  • 3 days of executive in jail – ($125 * 24) = $3000 
  • Other resources deployed to help executive HR professionals & Company Lawyers - $5000 
  • Changed flight - $500 
  • Lost effectiveness – Week out of commission ($5000) 
  • Idled Executive – Unmeasurable (Tens of thousands of dollars.) 

If only Justin had Safedome.

Now that Justin is home safe it’s a lot easier to talk about ‘if only’. But if Safedome had been with Justin’s passport, his phone would have alerted him before boarding the plane. No matter where Justin left it – in duty free, the lounge or maybe the bathroom – in moments after his passport left his side he would have known and been able to take immediate action. This would have avoided the whole horrible situation and the loss of money, time and stress for Justin, his company and loved ones.

The value of Safedome.

So if Justin or his business had been using Safedome – how much do you think it would have cost for the protection of his wallet and passport for the year? $99. A small price to pay for the reassurance that when you travel your passport is constantly monitored by Safedome.


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