Holidaymakers are set to face more passport chaos this summer according to a leaked memo from the Passport Office.
According to the leaked document, the government office is struggling to work through the 500,000 person backlog due to being held back by slow IT systems. With Boris Johnson threatening to privatise the office due its failure to handle the increase in passport applications, staff are being held back because the office’s IT systems aren’t “fit for purpose”, The Sun reports.
At the moment, appointments can’t be booked online, and people are reporting they are still yet to receive their new passports after more than 10 weeks of waiting. With summer approaching, the situation has the potential to cause a lot of trouble for British tourists wanting to go abroad, who might be unable to do so if their passports don’t arrive in time.
In leaked messages, obtained by The Times, it suggests that these issues are only the “beginning of a very lengthy scenario”. The messages say that digital systems were installed to help people get new passports were “rolled out too quickly”, which has forced the staff to use older, slower methods to get passport applications approved and sorted – which is adding to the backlog.
Brits are still applying for new passports, too with an estimated 4.5 million people having their passports expire during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the resulting travel restrictions continuing well into 2021. This pressure is only set to become “heavier”, according to the messages, as staff have reported that they have been treated like “peasants” as they work to deal with the backlog, with ministers and managers “failing to defend” them.
The processing system they were given to use was described as “deeply flawed and half-working”, with the Home Office saying the current number of applications in the backlog waiting to be processed standing at half a million.
A spokesperson for the Passport Office told The Sun that 250,000 passport applications were completed each week and the “overwhelming majority” were turned around within ten weeks. But staff have also accused Teleperformance – who run the passport advice line – of making things worse for the office, as they have gave customers “misleading advice” and created more anger from the public caught up in the backlog.
As summer approaches, the travel industry is slowly creeping up to pre-pandemic levels, with countries reopening their borders and reducing COVID-19 restrictions. It is likely that most people who had their passports expire through the pandemic waited until after most of these restrictions were lifted before requesting a renewal, which has caused the backlog and doubled the wait time for applications to be sorted.
This comes as holidaymakers in the midlands faced “new levels of chaos” at Birmingham Airport earlier this week, with the terminal struggling to cope due to weeks of delays causing two-hour security queues. BirminghamLive previously reported that around half of the 13,400 customers booked to depart from the city on Tuesday were through security screening and on to their departing flights before 9am, taking roughly 35 minutes to pass through all the checks.
But this wasn’t the case for everyone, with some reporting it took two-hours to pass through security at the start of the day, with one holidaymaker describing the queues as “just utter carnage”. He told BirminghamLive : “I travel extensively and I promise you, that’s as bad as I have ever, ever known. Just utter carnage.
“We arrived at the airport at 3.40am for a 6am flight, it took us nearly 90 minutes just to drop our bag off and that left us with about 25 minutes before boarding.
“We started queuing but luckily they started calling out flights to waive people through the queues and into the express Lane. If we had to wait, we would have missed the flight.
“It’s an absolute shambles. Staff are rude and aggressive but I don’t blame them dealing with the s *** show they’re being expected to manage.” He added: “The start of a holiday is meant to be fun – I felt so terribly stressed.”