Passport mistake denies West Chester newlyweds their honeymoon

WEST CHESTER TWP., Ohio  — This wasn’t the honeymoon Justin and Samantha Kornhaus were eagerly anticipating, the Journal-News reported.

After 10 months of planning a wedding — the culmination of six years of dating — they were excited about spending a relaxing week at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. No more tedious wedding details to decide.

Their biggest decision while in Mexico would be what to drink on the beach.

Instead, for the past several days, they have been frustrated by calling 1-800 numbers, being placed on hold and drowning in bureaucratic red tape as they attempt to resolve their passport issue and get a partial refund on their $4,000 honeymoon package. The only water they’ve seen is the pond outside their West Chester apartment.

Their honeymoon heartache began innocently enough in June when they processed their passports at the Butler County Clerk of Courts, where Justin serves as Special Projects Manager. He understands “issues can arise” from the application process, so he said he did his due diligence to ensure all the necessary steps had been taken to review the information prior to departure.

The Kornhauses were married on Aug. 4 in Columbus, then drove the next morning to John Glenn Columbus International Airport to depart for their honeymoon. His passport scanned correctly, but when he scanned his wife’s passport, it was rejected at the American Airlines kiosk.

No problem, they initially thought and then manually entered the registration numbers. The boarding passes printed, but the kiosk kept “throwing an error” when they attempted to pay for their luggage, he said.

After being directed to the customer service line, and waiting for more than an hour, the newlyweds missed their flight.

So Samantha called the resort and told them to push placing rose petals on the bed back one day and to delay icing the champagne in the room.

By now the petals are wilted, the champagne warm.

When they attempted to book a new flight for Monday, again Samantha’s passport was rejected because the chip wasn’t scanning. So she wasn’t issued a boarding pass. They left the airport dejected, unsure of their next steps.

Samantha, 29, called it “a gut-wrenching feeling” and she “kind of lost it” in the airport.

They had procured trip insurance, but the policy required a 24-hour advance cancellation. So everything — airfare, hotel/resort, and honeymoon package — was ineligible for refund. After speaking to a supervisor, they learned they could get a $2,600 credit — $1,400 less than they paid — for a future trip within 365 days if could provide a written statement from the Passport Agency in Detroit claiming full responsibility for the error.

Good luck with that, Mr. and Mrs. Kornhaus.

Then on Monday, Justin called the passport agency and was told the only option was driving the passport to Detroit, filing out a form, and getting a replacement.

Michigan didn’t sound like much of a honeymoon either.

So they were told to file a report and to expect a response within two weeks. By that time, they will be back at work, their vacation time spent at home.

“It’s a mess,” he said. “It’s a nightmare and there is nothing we can do.”

Justin said his wife’s passport should have gone through quality assurance before it was mailed. He said one page of her passport is frayed and the registration numbers are positioned closer to the bottom of the page than on his passport. Every agency has a different explanation for the mistake. Some have blamed the printing company, others the post office.

But not one is accepting the blame.

“The ball was dropped,” he said. “We can never get this time back. We can never have the honeymoon we wanted because of a mistake nobody is claiming.”

As his wife, a local bank branch manager, said: “There is no reason I shouldn’t be in Mexico right now. Nothing that we did was wrong. Somebody here needs to pick it up. Somebody needs to say, ‘This absolutely is on us.’”

Eventually they plan to meet with an attorney to discuss punitive damages for their emotional stress.

Until then, there is one positive: They have written and mailed all their wedding gift thank-you cards.

Not many newlyweds do that on their honeymoon.

The Journal-News is a media partner of WCPO 9 On Your Side.