Free holiday proved a passport to chaos
MY daughter was unexpectedly offered the chance of a holiday last week after a friend was unable to use one he had booked when work intervened – and in my business work always wins; there’s not a lot of it about.
All she had to do was pay £95 to change the name on the booking. Even though that is a lot of money for a process that should take seconds only to accomplish, it is a small price to pay for a trip to an Aegean island.
She then discovered that her passport had run out with a week to go before her departure to Thassos. No worry, there is a four hour passport service available – at a premium of course – but that’s fair enough. It costs £77.50 already, so the extra £52.00 is worth it, if you’re desperate.
Now given that this is the busiest time of the year, one would think that the number of people requiring this service could be predicted and appropriate staff put in place.
First of all, there is the usual ritual dance of ringing a premium number that sends you through several options and recorded messages before kicking you into touch with a cheery ‘This service is not available at the moment’. Why can’t they tell you that at the beginning rather than the end of the process? No prizes for guessing.
When she eventually got to speak to someone, she was told that there was only one appointment available that week, in Belfast. Desperate, she grabbed it. She was told however that she could keep checking as there were often cancellations of appointments at one of the half dozen passport offices in the UK. Eventually she got an appointment in Durham two days before her flight. She filled the form in and signed within the box in black ink and took every piece of evidence she could find with her on the 600 mile round trip to Durham and got her precious passport.
It appears that so many jobs have been cut that the agency is in chaos. Union officials have been warning the government for months that this would be an issue in the summer but their warnings, it seems, fell on deaf ears.
When I last checked there were no appointments available for at least two weeks in Peterborough, London, Bristol or Newport. So check your passports now if you are planning a holiday trip in the next few weeks.