A Washington state man was recently denied boarding for a flight from Newark to Toronto after only presenting his Nexus card, thinking it was the only documentation he needed.

Justin Thompson is a U.S. citizen and was travelling on Porter Airlines from Newark Airport to Billy Bishop Airport in Toronto in July. Thompson was travelling with his Nexus card and did not have his passport.

When he tried to board the flight, the Porter Airlines gate agent refused to allow him on.

“She said, ‘I need your passport or you’re not flying today,’” he said. Thompson thought his Nexus card was a valid piece of identification that would allow him to travel between Canada and the U.S. without a passport. Thompson, who is a boyfriend of a CTV employee, said he’s never had a problem with other airlines.

There are eight designated Canadian cities with Nexus kiosks. While Billy Bishop Airport isn’t on the list, CBSA’s website says there is a “trusted traveller kiosk” for Nexus members at that airport for incoming flights.

In a statement to CTV News, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) said that a Nexus card can be used in lieu of a passport for “Canadian and American citizens who are Nexus members entering Canada from the U.S.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said Nexus is “recognized as an acceptable equivalent document to a valid passport.” The U.S. CBP’s website says the Nexus card has been approved as “an alternative to the passport” for air travel into the United States for U.S. and Canadian citizens. 

Porter Airlines told CTV News that it’s in the “best interest of all international travellers to carry a valid passport” and “the language on our website and flight reminder is explicit noting the requirement for a passport, which is supported by CBSA indicating that an airline may do so.” CBSA’s website also states that a passport may be required by an airline or alternative transportation authority.

Thompson ended up paying $270 more than the original cost of his Porter ticket for a last-minute flight to Toronto’s Pearson Airport on United Airlines, which accepted his Nexus card alone.

“If people understand this has the potential to happen, bring your passport with you because it can ruin your trip,” said Thompson.

Porter Airlines says it has apologized to Thompson, refunded his ticket and issued him a $50 voucher.

WestJet tells its passengers to bring their passports, but Air Canada said Nexus is valid in place of a passport for U.S. and Canadian citizens but says passengers need a passport to return to Canada by air.

Allison Wallace with Flight Centre says they recommend all their customers travel with a passport.

“We always recommend travelling with a passport regardless as it’s the only reliably and universally accepted travel documentation,” she said.