Travelers are being forced to cancel Easter travel bookings due to a backlog at the HM Passport Office which is delaying renewals.
Some passengers ended up with hundreds of pounds in their pockets because their new passports did not arrive before their departure date.
The Passport Office is currently advising travelers to allow up to 10 weeks for processing applications, compared to an average of three weeks before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, service failures with the official government courier, TNT, mean some applicants wait weeks for delivery after their passports are issued.
Frustrated holidaymakers have complained of a broken system with unreachable customer services, processing errors and a lack of appointments for the high-priced priority service.
Linda Hill has had to cancel a vacation to France with her newly bereaved father after a replacement for his damaged passport did not arrive in time.
She had paid £142 for the fast track service which requires applicants to submit their documents in a face-to-face appointment and promises delivery within a week.
‘There were no appointments available nearby so I had to make a six hour round trip from Sussex to Peterborough,’ she said.
Both the Passport Office and TNT told Hill the passport would be issued on the eighth day, but he did not show up.
“The fiasco cost me £500 from lost holidays, but the worst was the immense stress caused to my family because the trip was to comfort my father after my mother passed away last month,” he said. she declared.
Others say their applications were delayed or even canceled because the Passport Office failed to register supporting documents.
A mother told the Guardian she sent her daughter’s old passport by signed delivery in January. Royal Mail tracking showed it had been delivered, but his online account continues to show the old passport is required.
“I called the helpline over 15 times and submitted numerous web forms with tracking details showing we sent it,” she said.
“Weeks have passed with no response and now we have been advised that the application will be withdrawn this month and we will forfeit our £80.50 fee if they do not receive the old passport they have had since January. “
The Passport Office has reported an increase in passport applications after Covid travel restrictions were lifted, with many families planning overseas holidays for the first time in two years.
An HMPO spokesperson said: “Due to Covid-19, over 5 million people have delayed applying for a UK passport throughout 2020 and 2021. In preparation for applying to return from international travel, since April 2021, our published guidelines made it clear that people should allow 10 weeks to get their passports.
“In busier periods, call wait times will take longer. However, we continue to work with our vendor to recruit more and support the effort to bring response times closer to normal levels.
He said appointments were available to book up to three weeks in advance and those experiencing delays after paying for expedited service should request a refund.
Some applicants have reported waits of up to three months after the document is issued, as TNT struggles to keep up with demand. The US company, part of FedEx, signed a three-year, £77million contract with the Home Office to provide official travel documents in 2019 and has since come under fire for missed deliveries, miscommunications and long delays.
He blames a post-pandemic surge in demand for service shortages
A TNT spokesperson said: ‘We have taken a number of steps to restore service levels across our HM Passport Office network – including operational resources, additional team support and additional customer support resources – and we are currently operating within the service level requirements agreed with the Home Bureau. We apologize to any customer who has experienced a delay in passport delivery and will continue to work with HMPO to resolve individual cases.
Most standard travel insurers do not reimburse trips canceled due to passport issues. However, those who have lost a holiday due to delays can take their case to the Financial Services Ombudsman who can require the insurer to pay if the customer can prove they took reasonable steps to get their passport back in time.