'Absolute nightmare': Half a million Brits set to miss holidays due to passport delays

21 July 2022, 11:09 | Updated: 21 July 2022, 11:38

People queue up at HM Passport Office in Victoria amid backlog

By Megan Hinton

Over half a million Brits could miss out on summer holiday plans this year as the Government struggles to deal with the deluge of passport applications.

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Parliament has been told delays in processing applications could continue over the summer and may not improve before the end of the year.

More than 550,000 passports were waiting to be dealt with at the end of June and it now takes on average around 10 weeks to process 10 per cent or 55,000 applications instead of the standard three weeks, the Commons Home Affairs Committee was told.

LBC correspondent Charlotte Lynch spoke to desperate queues of people outside of the London passport office on Wednesday morning.

Dinara Klinton, who has gained British citizenship in January after moving from Ukraine 10 years ago has been waiting for three months for a passport and is facing a loss of £16,000 if she is unable to board her flight tonight.

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Dinara Klinton has been waiting for 12 weeks for a passport
Dinara Klinton has been waiting for 12 weeks for a passport. Picture: LBC

She explained: "I became a British citizen in January this year and received my first adult British passport in February which came with two errors in the observations.

"After multiple attempts to contact the HMP I was told to send my documents to the Liverpool office. I did so over 12 weeks ago and I have had no response.

"I travel for work, I am an international concert pianist and my first flight is departing today and I am actually facing the losses of over £16,000 because I am not able to fulfil my engagements."

Ms Klinton queued outside of the passport office from 11am to 5pm on Wednesday but was too far back in the line to be seen.

Today she left at 5am to try for the second time ahead of her planned 7pm flight to Düsseldorf tonight.

Another hopeful holidaymaker told Charlotte that she had been waiting 11 weeks for a passport for her four-year-old daughter.

Mother Rebecca has booked to see her family in Italy tomorrow she said the process has been an "absolute nightmare" adding: "I know it sounds dramatic but it has been almost been ruining my life."

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Mother Rebecca has been waiting 11 weeks for a passport for her four-year-old daughter
Mother Rebecca has been waiting 11 weeks for a passport for her four-year-old daughter. Picture: LBC

HM Passport Office director Thomas Greig said turnaround times may not return to normal for another "few months", leaving some travellers facing the prospect of long waits for identity documents continuing over the summer.

When asked by MPs on Wednesday when the situation could change, and if the wait time would return to three weeks by the end of the year, Mr Greig said: "I don't think I can guarantee that."

But he also stressed demand for passports had fallen "significantly" in the last few weeks.

Committee chairman Dame Diana Johnson said it was "completely unacceptable" that people were struggling to get their passports, adding: "This is not rocket science ... It just seems to me this is a complete failure if you were looking at this from last July, and we're still now, 12 months on, with all these people not being able to get their passports. Why is that? Why have you failed so miserably?"

Travel journalist Simon Calder told MPs that in the 21st century it was "extremely regrettable" that people cannot "event get as far as the airport".

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More staff have been hired and the department has "produced more passports than we ever have", Mr Greig said.

In a typical year, the passport office deals with around seven million applications, but is expected to process a record 9.5 million in 2022.

Around 250,000 passports are processed per week, with five million dealt with so far this year - which is more than the entire amount handled in 2021, Mr Greig said.

MPs, who also raised concerns about long waits for helpline calls to be answered, heard part of the passport office's service was suspended during the heatwave earlier this week.

Ms Johnson blasted contractors Teleperformance for failing to appear in front of the committee for questioning.

The company, which operates a helpline for the Passport Office, had been issued with financial penalties in the region of the "high hundreds of thousands" of pounds over its performance, Mr Greig said.

The trouble comes as Priti Patel revealed travellers will be able to sweep through "contactless" borders in two years.

Passengers will be screened by technology and will no longer have to speak to Border Force officers or use an e-gate when returning to the UK after holidays abroad.