There have already been warnings of cancelled holidays due to delays as demand recovered from the pandemic. The Passport Office is advising travellers to apply 10 weeks in advance. The Centre for Economics and Business Research said it estimated a 50 percent probability of a “successful and timely” passport renewal process based on current reports.
“Data from the VisitBritain Covid-19 Consumer Sentiment Tracker shows that more than two in five are planning an overseas trip in the coming 12 months,” it said.
“Assuming passport holders are more likely to have travel plans than the population as a whole, and that a quarter of those will have made a booking, leaves just under one million holidaymakers at risk due to the delays.”
The number of valid UK passports fell by more than 2.5 million during the first two calendar years of the Covid-19 pandemic as people delayed applications.
A total of 48.9 million passports were in circulation at the end of last year – 2.6 million fewer than at the end of 2019.
This is an abrupt change from the period before the pandemic, which had seen passport numbers rise from 50 million in December 2017 to 51.5 million two years later.
The figures were obtained through a freedom of information request.
They show that an average of 559,000 UK passports were printed each month in 2019, but this dropped to 329,000 in 2020 and recovered only slightly to 402,000 in 2021.
Some 967,000 passports were printed across November and December last year, however.
Last week, a senior Government source said Prime Minister Boris Johnson was ready to “privatise the arse” out of the Passport Office.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told the Commons last week of two constituents who “fear their honeymoon may now be wrecked”.
She added: “We’ve had people cancelling jobs, parents trying to get holiday for a sick child waiting since January, huge long delays by the Passport Office and by the contractor TNT.”
Meanwhile, furious passengers at Manchester Airport posted pictures on social media at 3am yesterday of queues for baggage check-in snaking outside Terminal 1.
Andy Clarke shared a snap, adding: “It’s 3am and the queue for bag drop at @manairport T1 is out of the door! And only one security queue out of 12 is open.”
The airport has been struggling with increased passenger numbers. It is understood yesterday’s delays were down to staff shortages as well as some customers turning up before their airline’s check-in desks opened.