PASSPORT Office workers are processing 800,000 applications each month, as post-pandemic pressures continue to strain the travel industry.

In recent months, long queues have formed at Newport’s Passport Office alongside stories of holidaymakers whose plans have been left in disarray.

Now that the peak for summer holiday travel has passed, our sister title, South Wales Argus has spoken with readers – including some of those who were worst-affected by the delays – to find out whether the situation had improved.

In June, one mother feared her family’s summer holiday was under threat because her son’s new passport had sat in the Newport office for three months.

In her case, the delay was because her son had turned 16 after the initial paperwork was filed, meaning the application fee was higher – but red tape meant her attempts to simply pay the difference over the phone went nowhere.

Speaking to the Argus this week, Claire Fernyhough said she was contacted by the Passport Office “about three or four days” after the article was published, because they “said they’d done a case review” into her experience.

Queues at Newport Passport Office in June as people tried to speed up their passport applications.Claire Fernyhough and son Tristan eventually received his passport after three months of delays.

“They took the extra money there and then and arranged for me to collect it from Liverpool on the Saturday,” she said, adding that she and son Tristan had made it to their holiday.

“So in the end a happy customer, but it caused me significant stress and upset trying to resolve it,” she said.

Based on what our readers have told us on social media, things seem to be improving for some customers when it comes to waiting times, although there are exceptions.

Janet O’Neill and Judith Benjamin said their new passports arrived within two weeks of them applying, while Belinda Oaten, Katy Jones and Melissa White were among readers who said theirs arrived within one week.

For others, waits continue.

Kurt Morris, from the Newport area, said he had been waiting “18 weeks” and “still nothing”. Christina Davies, from Blaenau Gwent, said she had been waiting eight weeks, and Christine Stevens, from Monmouthshire, said her new passport arrived “exactly on the 10th-week date deadline”.

Queues at Newport Passport Office in June as people tried to speed up their passport applications.Crowds gathered outside the passport office in Newport in May.

Livvy Maguire, from Torfaen, said she applied for new passports for herself and her partner 17 weeks ago, and while her own arrived within 10 days, his passport is still nowhere to be seen.

Delays continue to cause problems for people who need to organise events and holidays, other readers said.

Diane Bishop, from Torfaen, said her son was unable to register to get married until his new passport arrived; and Kaz Corbs – also Torfaen – said her passport eventually arrived, but only after a 10-week wait which was eventually resolved, £100 later, just days before a flight.

“The amount of stress it caused our family was unbelievable,” she added.

The Passport Office has blamed this year’s delays on the Covid-19 pandemic, and said it had taken on 1,200 extra staff since last April to deal with the rise in demand.

“Since April 2021, we’ve clearly stated that people should allow up to ten weeks when applying for their passport to factor in the increased demand, which has seen five million people delay their passport application due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson for the Passport Office said.

“The overwhelming majority of applications are completed within the published timeframe, with 96.4 per cent of applications being processed within 10 weeks since January 2022. But we cannot compromise security checks and people should apply with plenty of time prior to travelling.”

Customers who have queries about their specific passport application should call the Passport Advice Line on 0300 222 0000. More details about the Passport Office’s public counters across the UK can be found online here

When an application has been with the Passport Office for longer than 10 weeks, the agency provides an “expedited service at no additional cost” to customers who can prove they are due to travel within the next fortnight. Their case will then be prioritised.