‘I’m furious’ – Cramlington mum who fears she may lose family holiday slams Passport Office

A mum who fears she may lose her family holiday has slammed the Passport Office for its “incompetence”.

Christine Pogson, 50, is due to travel to Lanzarote with her husband Jeff, 49, and their youngest son Aidan, 16, on July 7. The couple, from Cramlington, Northumberland, booked the £1,200 trip to celebrate Aidan finishing his GCSE exams and leaving school.

The teenager’s passport was due to run out in June so the pair applied online to the Passport Office for a new one for him. They paid the fee, uploaded a new picture of Aidan and sent his old passport to the Passport Office by recorded delivery on April 13.

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Christine said his old passport was delivered to the Passport Office in Durham on April 27 – however it was not marked as being received by them until May 16. She said they have told her the 10 week waiting time applies from May 16, meaning Aidan’s passport may arrive after their travel date.

The mum-of-two said she has contacted the Passport Office at least seven times and has waited for two hours at a time to speak to a member of staff on the phone. She said they told her the passport was eligible to be fast-tracked but that it would have to be approved first and she would have to pay another £73.

A spokesperson for HM Passport Office said staff are processing around 250,000 passport applications each week and urged people to apply with plenty of time prior to travelling.

Christine, who works as a donor carer for the blood transfusion service, said: “I’m furious. Aidan’s old passport has obviously just been sat there and not looked at for a least a couple of weeks. It’s a bit out of order trying to charge us again for their incompetence. From our side we did everything we were advised to do. It’s basic incompetence on their behalf.

“Aidan’s just finished his GCSEs so it’s a bit of a treat. He’s finished school and he’s looking for an apprenticeship now. It’s probably our last family holiday. He’s really upset. He said ‘I don’t want you to have to lose your holiday so you and dad go’. I don’t want to have to do that to him.

“I’m really anxious because I don’t want to leave him at home on his own and I can’t cancel my holiday as I would lose all my money. If I try and defer my holiday I will be charged almost the price of the holiday because it’s less than two weeks until we travel. We’re stuck between a rock and a hard place really. I just don’t know what to do next.”



The couple want to take their youngest son on holiday

As it stands, Christine and Jeff, who works as a senior project manager for Virgin Media O2, are unsure as to whether they will be able to travel from Newcastle Airport and take Aidan on holiday to the Spanish island. Christine said she rang the Passport Office on Saturday and waited two hours on the line to speak to somebody, only to be cut off during the conversation. She said she rang back and waited another two hours to speak to a member of staff.

Christine said: “When I did eventually get through to speak to somebody she did a referral to the upgrade team to see if Aidan’s passport can be fast-tracked. She said if we haven’t heard by next Friday then ring again and that’s less than a week until we travel.

“I even said on the phone to them ‘I will pay the money, I’m not happy about it, but I will pay it and I will even go and sit at the Durham office and wait on it to be printed’. They said ‘There’s no point going down to the Durham office as no one has authority to do it, it’s the upgrade team which approve it’. You try your best but they are not even willing to meet you half way.”

Christine has also raised concerns about the customer service provided by employees at the Passport Office. She said: “I have spoken to that many people, I have rang about seven times in total. I have spoken to people who are quite clearly working from home and taking calls. You can hear kids in the background, doors being shut and TVs on. It’s absolutely appalling and so unprofessional.

“I feel like my 16-year-old has more professionalism about him then the people who sounded like call handlers. They aren’t interested in helping you. They have just taken our details and that’s the last we’ve heard of it.

“There’s no reassurance whatsoever. It’s very standard responses that we get. I don’t think they understand families are going to lose thousands of pounds here. You’re losing your holiday that you’ve worked hard for and been looking forward to for a long time.”

A HM Passport Office spokesperson said: “Staff are processing approximately 250,000 passport applications each week and between March and May 98.5% of applications were completed within 10 weeks. But we cannot compromise security checks and people should apply with plenty of time prior to travelling.

“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 5 million people delay their passport application due to the pandemic. An expedited service is available at no additional cost to help the small percentage of people whose applications take longer than ten weeks to receive their passports before they travel.”

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