D.Finding out that you urgently need a new passport during a long strike at the Passport Office is bad news. Normally you can apply for a fast-track passport which can be picked up in a week, or use the premium online service which can deliver one to you in a couple of days, but not when a quarter of the Passport Office staff stop working for five weeks.
For me, the consequence of this was finding out that I would have to take a flight from London, where I live, to Belfast to collect my new passport. There were no dates in England. And while I was paying a lot (£193.50 compared to £155 fast track or £82.50 normal), the fastest in-person appointment I could get was 19 days later on Tuesday 25th April. With business trips to Dubai and then Nice in the next two weeks, getting my new passport was a matter of urgency.
This stressful experience began with an even more stressful one on April 4, when I showed up at Gatwick airport with my four-year-old daughter to fly to France to visit her grandparents. We had made it to the gate when an easyJet staff member scanned my passport and an ‘amber’ alert appeared on the screen. “You can’t fly, your passport has expired,” he told me. My heart sank, my daughter began to cry. But I was also confused: the expiration date was clearly November 2023, and even with the EU requirement to have at least three months of validity on her passport, I thought it was fine. But not.
The error came from not checking the issue date. Since Brexit, to travel to the EU, British passports cannot be older than 10 years, so if you have extra months added from a passport issued before 2019 (I had nine extra months), these are no longer counted. . Traveling to other countries like the United States, where I had traveled just a few days before, is fine.
My passport was issued in February 2013, which meant it “expired” in February 2023.
Resigned to having to abandon our Easter vacation, we were escorted back to the airport. Two and a half hours later, at 9:30 p.m., the suitcase was returned to us.
I took advantage of this time to talk to my family and warn my brother, who had to visit our parents with his family in May. He hurried to check his passport; he too would be defeated. He couldn’t afford expedited service, so he filled out his application that night and mailed it the next day. The general advice was that it would take him up to 10 weeks to get a new one during the strikes, so it seemed his vacation could be ruined as well.
It took me two days to check and recheck the Gov.uk website to get my premium quote online, so it was a race against time to see who would get theirs first. Not only did I pay almost an extra £111 for the “quickest” service, but another £250 on flights to Belfast, £100 for a hotel and around £50 on food and drink during the trip. (About £500 more than my brother).
And do you know who got their passport first? He did. Four days earlier, on April 21.
I successfully collected my passport from the Belfast passport office at 9am, the place was empty. When I got home I realized that my daughter’s passport expired in September 2023, so I sent an application for her too (£53.50), but this time I did it by post.