Families are missing flights to holiday destinations because some members can not get their passports issued in time, the Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) has claimed.
The ITAA said some families were waiting several months for a passport for a family member – particularly for new babies or first time passport holders.
In other cases families are being asked to pay “excessive fees” to airlines to change flight dates, because of the non-availability of passports, the ITAA said.
The claims follow comments on Thursday by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney that more than 400,00 passport applications had been received by the start of the year.
Mr Coveney told the Dáil: “The main issue that’s driving pressure at the moment is just the sheer volume of applications, it’s just off the charts in terms of anything else we’ve ever experienced in recent years,”
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs stood by the figures on Friday but said there was “no backlog” . He said “while there is a very high volume of applications, this does not represent a backlog. There is a continuous stream of new applications and a continuous dispatch of completed passports happening every day.
The spokesman referred to a difference between passport renewals and first time passport applications and said there are currently 182,000 passport applications in the Passport Service system, with staff working normally in their offices.
He said in January when there were, as the minister said, 137,000 applicants, and 30,000 were for new passports. In February there were 150,000 applications and 27,000 of them were first time applications.
The number of first time applications for children and babies was 17,000 in January 2022 and 17,000 in February 2022.
The spokesman said further figures from the Passport Service showed just 63 per cent of applications submitted are complete. Currently 37 per cent or 68,000 applications in the system are incomplete, “which means the Passport Service is waiting for the applicant to submit the necessary documentation required”, he said.
However Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association said it was “frustrated and disappointed” at what he said were “the ongoing delays with the Passport Office. It is unacceptable and a huge blow to those wishing to travel abroad.”
Mr Dawson said “customers who want to book holidays are being forced to wait for their passport application to be approved. It’s been particularly bad for families where there’s a new baby in the family and you have to apply for a passport for them”.
Mr Dawson said he knew of “several families in this situation who have waited several months and have had to miss their holiday as a result of the passport not coming through in time”.
“Some people are having to pay excessive change fees to airlines, €400 a family in some cases. There is a pent-up demand for travel; people have been through enough during the past 24 months, and these passport delays will only be another obstacle in the way of things returning to normal”, he said.
To avail of an urgent appointment service for passport renewal, applicants must first book an appointment to attend the public office. This is a limited service and slots are allocated by appointment only on a first come, first served basis.
In February 2022, some 9 per cent of all applications originated in the United Kingdom.