New holiday strike chaos as fast-track passport services dry up as tourists rush for appointments following announcement of a five-week strike
- It is feared that five-week strikes at the passport office could jeopardize the holidays.
Concerned families led the race for new passports yesterday amid fears that a five-week strike would jeopardize the summer vacations of tens of thousands.
Expensive appointments for fast-track services quickly sold out as tourists requested new paperwork ahead of expected delays caused by strikes.
As of yesterday afternoon, only the Belfast passport office was offering the week-long service, raising the possibility that desperate families will be forced to travel hundreds of miles to renew their passports before embarking on planned getaways.
The chaos ensued after the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) announced that around 1,000 Passport Office employees will leave from April 3 to May 5 in a queue for wages and conditions.
The strikes appear deliberately timed to coincide with the busiest period of the year at the Passport Office.
Expensive appointments for fast-track services quickly sold out as tourists requested new paperwork ahead of expected delays caused by strikes (file image)
Applicants are already being told to wait up to ten weeks for replacement passports and wait times are expected to skyrocket if strikes take place.
Data scientist Dr. Michael Hodge, who oversees a Twitter feed monitoring the availability of premium and fast-track passport office appointments, said there was a spike in bookings in the wake of the announcement of the strikes.
“Please don’t panic,” he wrote online. ‘We are now entering a period of limited appointments.’
Under the fast track service, tourists receive their new passport seven days after attending an appointment, at a cost of £155.
On Friday morning, prior to the strike announcement, appointments were available at eight UK offices.
Yesterday afternoon, however, there only seemed to be something left in the Belfast branch. The Passport Office also offers a premium service, costing £193.50, which allows tourists to obtain their documents on the day of the appointment.
Yesterday afternoon, the first available appointment in the London office was April 4, while there were no appointments available in the Newport center.
Kevin Pratt, a personal finance and travel expert at the Forbes advisor website, said it was “inevitable” that the PCS announcement would spark a rush of dating.
“It’s like toilet paper rolls during Covid-19,” he said. ‘You know you have something at home and you don’t need it for two weeks, but if you leave it that long there may not be anything left.
Greg Smith, a Conservative MP on the Commons transport select committee, urged people to only submit an emergency passport application if they need one.
“I completely understand why people want to make sure their plans aren’t jeopardized by this.”
The PCS is seeking a 10 percent pay rise. Its general secretary, Mark Serwotka, has said the strike will have a “significant impact”.
Greg Smith, Conservative MP for the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, last night accused the union of ‘defrauding the British people’, adding: ‘They (the union) are undermining their own cause and creating massive ill-will by denying people their trip abroad.’
He also urged people to only file an emergency passport application if they need one.
“If the floodgates open, people who might need that last-minute request to go to a family funeral or communicate with a dying relative abroad will be left behind.”
The MoS revealed in December how the Passport Office collected £46m in back-due fast-track service fees last summer.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are disappointed with the union’s decision to go on strike. We are working to manage the impact while making sure we continue to provide vital services.”