Passport delays: Holidaymaker warns of post-Brexit issues

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Having an in-date passport is crucial if you’re planning to jet off abroad, but it can be pretty useless if you don’t have it with you on the day of travel. While forgetting to pack this crucial document is a rational fear for many of us, huge delays at Her Majesty’s Passport Office have made this a reality for thousands of holiday-makers. Shadow Home Office minister, Stephen Kinnock said of the situation: “The chaos at the Passport Office reflects the wider failures of our Home Office, which is simply not fit for purpose under this Home Secretary.” Current guidance is to allow up to 10 weeks to get back a new, or renewed passport, but what can you do if yours still doesn’t arrive on time? Express.co.uk spoke to Paul Britton, Director and Solicitor of Britton and Time, to find out.

The Government has revealed HM Passport Office is expecting to issue 2.5 million more passports than usual this year, following a surge in post-lockdown applications.

Delays in processing have left millions of travellers with no choice but to use costly fast-track alternatives, yet some Brits are still being left empty-handed, and out of pocket.

While there’s no way to get around travelling without a passport, Paul Britton, Director and Solicitor of Britton and Time said that there are options for “disappointed customers” who have been subject to the failures of the Passport Office.

Who can claim for a delayed passport?

Applicants who have failed to leave adequate time between applying for their passport and travelling abroad will find it difficult to claim back on a missed holiday unless the Passport Office is explicitly at fault.

Home Office compensation guidance states: “We recommend that customers do not book travel until they receive their passports, as we are not liable for compensation unless we do not meet the standard turnaround target.

“We advise customers who need their passports urgently to use the Premium or Fast Track services.”

Fast track customers

Applicants who have used fast-track services with a “guaranteed” turnaround time will be more successful in acompensation claim, though there are some limits to what you are entitled to.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Paul explained the exact sum you will receive starts with the difference you paid between the standard service and the enhanced service.

Applicants who are ‘out of pocket’ as a result of processing errors

When HM Passport Office is liable for the mistake which caused the delay, customers will be able to stake a claim.

Paul said: “If your passport is delayed and you used either the Premium or FastTrack service with HM Passport Office, then you may be entitled to a refund of your out-of-pocket expenses.”

Extra expenses which the Passport Office or relevant partners will accept liability for include:

  • Additional photos
  • Replacement documents
  • Postage costs
  • Telephone costs
  • Travel to HM Passport offices

Paul added that applicants for passports may also be entitled to reimbursement if the Passport Office cannot carry out an interview at the pre-booked time and place.

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Fast track applicants who have lost their holiday

Importantly, HM Passport Office may reimburse customers for the partial loss of their holiday, though a full refund is unlikely.

Paul explained that this is done on a percentage basis, which takes into account the number of days lost, and any extra costs incurred, for example, rearranging flights.

He said: “If you have paid for the enhanced services, and you miss your trip because of a failure by the passport office, then customers may be entitled to claim the cost of their holiday.

“In extreme cases, disappointed customers can claim compensation for distress, typically between £200 and £300, but this can be up to a maximum of £500.”

If you choose to pay for legal representation or advice while making a claim, it is unlikely that you will be able to get these refunded as part of your compensation.

Paul explained that such fees are normally not claimable as the Passport Office considers its complaint process to be very straightforward.

There is a small chance that you could receive a full refund for “distress” or “loss of a holiday” as these cases are considered on a case-by-case basis – it really depends on the circumstances of the claim.

Home Office guidance states that compensation for distress can be awarded in the following circumstances:

  • The customer misses a life event (for example, a wedding or funeral)
  • The Passport Office loses the customer’s irreplaceable documents, which have sentimental value (for example, old family photographs)
  • An office closes early causing the customer to miss their interview (for example, a building evacuation due to a security alert)

Can you get a refund through airlines or insurers?

If a missing passport is the only reason for the loss or partial delay of a holiday, you should always contact the Passport Office first.

According to Gov.uk, there are two ways to make a complaint:

  1. Use the online enquiry form – you’ll get a reply within 72 hours
  2. Contact HMPO by post

Airline operators will not issue a refund if you need to cancel your holiday as it is not in their control, and most travel insurance claims will also exclude this from their contracts.

Instead, it is best to try to move the dates of your holiday, though this will incur extra fees.

Tour operators will often offer the option to change the dates for the difference in price or offer a refund in the form of ‘holiday credit’ to redeem in the near future.

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