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Brits face holiday chaos as 'just 50% of passports will be renewed in time for summer'
2 May 2022, 11:11
There is a 50% chance people going abroad this summer will have their passports renewed in time due to Covid backlogs, researchers have claimed.
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Passport delays could cost £1.1billion in cancelled trips this summer, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).
Researchers estimate a 50% probability of a "successful and timely" passport renewal process for travellers hoping to jet off this summer, based on current reports, with just half of passports being renewed expected to be returned to hopeful travellers in time.
The Passport Office is currently advising travellers to apply 10 weeks in advance.
The unprecedented spike in the number of people wanting to renew their passports comes after Covid lockdowns caused many to decide against going on trips abroad.
With five million people having put off renewing their passports, there is now a massive demand for the documents – and a ten-week target to complete applications is repeatedly not being met.
The problems have been compounded by the requirement for Brits to have at least three months left on their passport before it expires when they travel to the EU.
"Data from the VisitBritain Covid-19 Consumer Sentiment Tracker shows that more than two in five are planning an overseas trip in the coming 12 months," Cebr said.
"Assuming that passport holders are somewhat more likely to have travel plans than the population as a whole and that a quarter of those will have made a booking leaves just under one million holiday makers at risk due to the delays."
The number of valid UK passports fell by more than 2.5 million during the first two calendar years of the Covid-19 pandemic as people delayed applications.
A total of 48.9 million passports were in circulation at the end of last year - 2.6 million fewer than at the end of 2019.
This is an abrupt change from the period before the pandemic, which had seen passport numbers rise from 50.0 million in December 2017 to 51.5 million two years later.
The figures, obtained by the PA news agency, show that an average of 559,000 UK passports were printed each month in 2019, but this dropped to 329,000 in 2020 and recovered only slightly to 402,000 in 2021.
Some 967,000 passports were printed across November and December last year, however.
Mr Johnson is understood to be "horrified" at the backlog in dealing with passport applications and will summon the agency's leadership for urgent talks at No 10 next week.
A senior Government source said he has threatened to "privatise the arse" out of the Passport Office if it cannot clear the backlog.
He is said to be concerned that families wanting to go on summer holidays are under pressure to pay up to £100 extra per passport for fast-track applications because of delays.
Home Office minister Kevin Foster said anyone heading overseas this summer should submit passport applications as soon as possible.
He added the Government is "confident" it will not need to extend the 10-week target for processing requests.
A Passport Office spokesman said previously: "We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible and we do offer urgent services for applicants who need a passport more quickly."