Thousands of Christmas holidays could be at risk as the Passport Office courier service appears to be in meltdown.
Hundreds of people are going online every day to complain about delays at TNT, which has an exclusive contract to deliver official travel documents.
Customers report delivery dates being delayed multiple times, with some saying that their passports have been stuck with the US-owned company for up to a month. Some travellers due to go away in the coming days have become so desperate that they have been driving from depot to depot searching for their passports.
TNT’s customer service helpline appears to be overwhelmed, with calls not being answered for hours.
The delivery delays are in addition to long processing times at the Passport Office. The government website warns applicants to allow “up to ten weeks” for passports to arrive.
Some customers have become so frustrated with the delays that they have started an online petition asking for an inquiry into the failure of TNT. The petition says: “In recent months thousands of us have experienced significant delays in getting our passports delivered. Many have had to cancel their travel plans . . . and lost out on hundreds or even thousands of pounds.
“TNT do not seem to provide real-time tracking, nor can you provide delivery instructions. People have experienced numerous failed delivery attempts, others have had their delivery date continuously pushed back with no end in sight. Some have even had their passport or application supporting documents lost.”
TNT, which is owned by FedEx, was awarded a three-year contract worth £77 million to deliver new and renewed passports in July 2019. The petition calls on the government to investigate the diligence carried out before the deal. It asks why TNT’s failures have not been looked into by the government or another provider appointed.
The Times has established that in some cases the Passport Office is turning to alternative postal companies. A source at the department admitted that in cases where TNT had lost a passport it was re-printing the document and sending it by Royal Mail instead.
Twitter had dozens of messages yesterday from desperate people worried that they would miss their trips abroad.
Marina Dane said that she feared she would miss her honeymoon. She posted: “Three hours on hold with TNT and two unanswered emails, and one useless live chat that cancelled on me. Several calls to HM Passport Office and all they can say is that it’s TNT’s fault not theirs. Supposed to travel on Monday. Help!”
In another post Debra Michael wrote: “TNT have failed to deliver my passport three times. They have had my passport a month and I still have no idea where it is.”
TNT said that a surge in passport applications as Covid-19 restrictions were eased had caused a backlog. “We are taking additional steps to provide timely delivery by adding additional resources to the operations,” the company said.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.’’
The Passport Office said: “We are aware of some additional reported issues from customers related to missed deliveries by our delivery partners and are working closely with our partners to establish the root of this issue.”