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Airfares record 28% increase in one year – NBS - PUNCH

APRIL 28, 2022

BY   Edidiong Ikpoto

AIR transportation fares rose by 28.26 per cent in one year, according to a new report by the National Bureau of Statistics.

In a report titled, ‘Transport fare watch (March 2022),’ the NBS said the average fare paid by air passengers for specified routes on a single journey increased by 4.43 per cent month-on-month from N44,825.04 in February 2022 to N 46,810.62 in March 2022.

It said, “The average fare paid by air passengers for specified routes single journey, increased by 4.43 per cent on a month-on-month from N44,825.04 in February 2022 to N46,810.62 in March 2022. On a year-on-year, the fare rose by 28.26 per cent (N36,495.41) in March 2021.

“The average fare paid by commuters for bus journey intercity per drop rose to N3,270.94 in March 2022 indicating an increase of 5.29 per cent on a month-on-month compared to the value of N3,106.72 in February 2022. The fare, however, rose by 35.65 per cent (N2,411.29) on a year-on-year, in March 2021.”

According to the report, the average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city per drop, increased by 4.41 per cent on a month-on-month from N513.72 in February 2022 to N536.35 in March 2022.

In terms of year-on-year, however, the average fare paid by commuters for bus journeys within the city per drop rose by 42.17 per cent from N 377.27 in March 2021 to N536.35 in March 2022.

The NBS added, “In another category, the average fare paid by commuters for journey by motorcycle per drop increased by 4.22 per cent on month-on-month from N379.12 in February 2022 to N395.12 in March 2022.

“Also, in terms of year-on-year, the fare rose by 45.57 per cent from N 271.44 in March 2021 to N395.12 in March 2022.

“The average fare paid for water transport (waterway passenger transportation) in March 2022 dropped to N 890.03 showing a decrease of 2.53 per cent on month-on-month from N 913.13 in February 2022. On year-on-year, the fare rose by 10.10 per cent from N808.38 in March 2021 to N890.03 in March 2022.”

14 years on, Lagos airport awaits runway lights - THE GUARDIAN

APRIL 28, 2022

By Wole Oyebade


•Operators count losses amid spike in demand

Almost a year after the new vigor to end the historic blackout on the Runway 18L, the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, still awaits the deployment of the airfield lighting it has been deprived of in the past 14 years.

Though the project was to be executed within six-month of the new contract mentioned in July 2021, The Guardian yesterday learnt that the repair is yet to begin.

Meanwhile, the impact of the routine blackout and attendant underutilisation of the facility is telling on local airlines’ schedules even as traffic demand has recorded a boost in both local and international segments.

Runway 18L, which services the local airport, was in 2008 rehabilitated but without provision for an airfield lighting system.

Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, last year, said the lightening 18L runway was delayed because of an existing contract, but that “the minister has graciously accepted to resolve the protracted issue and he agreed to grant us approval to quickly procure a new lighting system.”

As at this week, operators still described the local airport as an “operational nightmare”, especially at nightfall or in bad weather.

The airport is central to the operations of all domestic carriers. Daily operations begin and end in Lagos for most aircraft. Without runway lighting for night operations, the runway is shut at sunset, forcing the domestic terminal and airlines to wind down operations at dusk – the peak air business globally.

The alternative is at nightfall (from 6pm), all Lagos-bound domestic carriers are diverted to the international section (18R), and made to taxi about four kilometres back to the domestic terminal, which costs extra fuel, flight congestion and disruptions.

Chief Operation Officer of one of the airlines, yesterday, said the “infrastructural neglect” has continued to hobble the potential growth of local operators.

“It is true that we are fast returning to the pre-COVID-19 traffic level, but, sadly, we are still facing the same infrastructural challenges of old. The number of airlines has increased and so too is the aircraft movement, but the infrastructure cannot sustain the growth.

“Without the runway lighting, aircraft take-offs are delayed every morning. In the evening, we face congestion trying to compete with foreign carriers on Runway 18R. Nothing should stop the airlines from operating round the clock in 24-hour airports. We have opened a new terminal but forget that to make the runway work optimally. All these have serious cost implications on operations. Passengers will blame airlines for flight delays, but these are the restraining factors that we are facing,” he said.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said about 13 million passengers travelled through Nigerian airports in 2021. The figure represents a growth rate of 43.41 per cent from nine million recorded in 2020.

A member of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON) said the body had consistently drawn attention of the Minister and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to the “critical gap” in Lagos, with pledges of getting something done for years.

His worry was the security risk and embarrassment of having the entire airport closed when an incident occurred on the international runway. And that has occurred at least on two occasions in recent times.

A former commandant of the Lagos Airport, Group Capt. John Ojikutu (rtd) said FAAN has no excuse for neglecting the runway and the R parallel taxiway in Lagos.

Ojikutu said in as much as they would want to blame funding, the MMA is in financial fine-fettle to regularly upgrade its facilities to world standards.

“My knowledge of airports’ earnings tells me that MMA alone can generate a minimum of N100 billion revenue. The question I have asked severally is: why can’t the airport spend 10 per cent of its earnings on the maintenance of the airport infrastructure and facilities? What are the actual earnings from our airports that the maintenance of the critical infrastructure and facilities are in disrepair and are neglected? Unfortunately too, the staff unions and airline operators are not seen or known to be vigorously complaining about these neglects,” Ojikutu said.

Excitement As Domestic Air Travel Picks Up After Passenger Traffic Slump - THISDAY

APRIL 29, 2022


There are indications that air travel has picked up again as the low period of February and March, when airlines barely had full flight, is over, a development that has brought excitement among industry stakeholders.

Airline operators attributed the improvement to the Easter holidays and the fact that many travellers who shunned the airports when airline increased base fare to N50, 000, have made a turnaround and have started travelling by air, as insecurity has made road travel more precarious.

Head of Communication, Dana Air, Mr. Kingsley Ezenwa, told THISDAY that passenger traffic had improved, especially Abuja, Lagos and Eastern destinations, noting that the airline is attracting passengers with good service, its loyalty promos, which the airline made flexible for passengers.

With benchmark fare of N50, 000 per ticket, Ezenwa said that each airline brings in innovation and marketing strategy to attract more customers.

Green Africa, last week, introduced special fares for travellers in the season of Ramadan starting from N27, 500 only across all routes. It explained that these special fares would be available for bookings between April 20 and May 4, 2022 and travel between April 21 and June 30, 2022.

According to Ezenwa, "There is benchmark in fares but Easter was very good for us, but the improvement in passenger traffic has continued after Easter and even two weeks before Easter. People have seen the benefits of loyalty promos. We made it flexible for our customers; that if you build up your loyalty you can even get a free ticket. But compared to last year, the traffic is yet to meet the figures of last year; it has not been spectacular.

"I must admit that traffic has been good before and after Easter. A month to Easter we were doing 80/90 per cent load factors and it has continued like that after Easter. In Dana Miles we give people bonuses, as member of our frequent flier programme and people are beginning to realise the benefits."

Ezenwa said many people shunned the airports after the increase of base fare, but traffic bounced back almost immediately, but initially they took it like a shock; now the patronage has increased.

"People are getting more enlightened and that makes it easy. If you have approved point you can fly for less. So it is about strategy now; we have to apply strategy. Enlightenment and strategy," he further said.

In the same vein, Spokesman of Arik Air, Mr. Adebanji Ola, admitted that there is slight improvement in domestic air travel but noted that it is still below that of last year, the same period.

He said Easter partly enabled the increase but Easter and Ramadan came at the same period and ironically during Ramadan people don't travel much.

"Yes, traffic has improved but not up to what we witnessed last year at the same period," Ola said.

Former Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the former CEO of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi, told THISDAY that traffic has started picking up, remarking that this was expected because this is a political period, which demands a lot of travel and others are travelling for business, noting that government would release funds for the second quarter and that would trigger a flurry of economic activities.

However, Sanusi said airlines were finding it difficult paying for the leased aircraft because although they are making money, they earn their revenue in Naira, while they pay for the lease in dollars.

"Airlines are making money but you are selling your ticket in Naira but lease rate is in dollars. This has made lessors to be jittery because they fear airlines might not be able to pay for the lease, knowing that it is difficult to source dollars and the fear is heightened when they learn about foreign airlines' blocked funds, which is about $300 million now. So lessors have started weighing the country risk.

"Until we tackle the problem of foreign exchange in the aviation sector,we will continue to have challenges. Without tackling this problem,development and progress of the aviation sector will continue to be hampered; whether you flow a national carrier or you bring Emirates or Qatar to operate in the domestic market, they will still face the same problem, the development in the sector will still be stifled. Leasing aircraft, buying spares, buying insurance are done with foreign exchange; it is only manpower that is settled with local currency," Sanusi said.

Some Nigerian carriers have been finding it difficult to pay for their leased aircraft, which they acquired to increase capacity for the high passenger demand during the Christmas season.

The financiers of some of these leased aircraft are finding it difficult to pay the expected rates, so they are taking the aircraft from airlines that are unable to pay for the lease as they did with Aero recently when one of such aircraft was taken from the airline.

The Managing Director of Aero Contractors, Captain Abdullahi Mahmood, told THISDAY that some of the leased aircraft came at high rates and with a slump in passenger traffic; some airlines could not cope paying for it.

"When an airline leases an aircraft, it pays for the agreed hourly utilisation of the aircraft, which can be some hours per month. You pay for the minimum agreed hours, irrespective of whether you use up to the agreed hours or not. Utilisation is usually calculated in block hours not in flight hours. Block hours mean from the time when the engine starts to when it goes off and flight hours means from take-off to landing.

"One of the reasons why Aero was unable to continue paying for the aircraft is that there is a slump in passenger traffic, yet, you are paying for the lease of the aircraft at the rate of $3,000 per block hour. By the time you make payments for the lease, you would realise that there is nothing left," Mahmood said.

Filling Up With Diesel in U.S. Has Never Been More Expensive - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 29, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- Diesel prices are surging to the highest level on record as the global fuel-supply shortage hits American truckers, farmers and users in just about every sector of the U.S. economy.

Retail diesel averaged $5.18 a gallon on Thursday, the highest in records going back to 2005, according to auto club AAA. Prices jumped in recent days amid record futures contracts and decades-low stockpiles, further squeezing consumers dealing with decades-high inflation. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has tightened global supplies of the fuel and led to fierce competition for diesel produced on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The shortage is concentrated on the U.S. East Coast, where distillates inventories have fallen to their lowest since 1996. Fuelmakers on the Gulf Coast have sped up exports to Latin America and Europe, while leaving the domestic pipeline supplying states along the Atlantic coast underused. 

Expensive diesel could deal a blow to the trucking sector, which consumes around 70% of all diesel used in the country and serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, according to trucking association ATA. Diesel is also used in farming equipment currently powering the largest planting season for corn and soybeans since 2017. 

 

Biden Eyes Targeted Student-Loan Forgiveness Starting at $10,000 - BLOOMBERG

APRIL 29, 2022

(Bloomberg) -- The White House is considering forgiving at least $10,000 in student loans per borrower through executive action, according to people familiar with the matter, with momentum increasing as President Joe Biden seeks ways to bolster voter enthusiasm ahead of the November midterms.

The move would come with considerable risks. Some deficit hawks worry it could worsen the inflation that is already weighing heavily on Democrats’ chances of maintaining control of the House and Senate. But any move may not go far enough to appease progressives and other advocates.

The administration has not yet settled on the proposal’s contours, but aims for the relief to be targeted to lower- and middle-income individuals, according to people familiar with the internal discussions. Biden himself confirmed Thursday that he plans to do something, but said he is not weighing $50,000 in forgiveness per borrower.

That figure has been pushed by House progressives and Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, along with several advocacy and civil rights groups. Former top Warren aides, including Julie Margetta Morgan and Bharat Ramamurti, now hold top jobs inside the Biden administration, working on the issue at the Department of Education and National Economic Council.

The president proposed canceling $10,000 per borrower during the presidential campaign, but his White House has been slow to follow through on his promise. It has extended a temporary freeze on student debt payments that was enacted in the earliest days of the pandemic, a move that has allowed it to kick the can down the road on the issue. 

When debt payments were frozen in 2020, it was part of a wider effort to prop up demand in the pandemic slump. That rationale doesn’t apply now, with the Federal Reserve battling soaring inflation and trying to rein in spending, not boost it.

Aides say the president had hoped Congress would take legislative action and his team has been divided on the merits of broad student debt forgiveness.

The White House is looking for ways to excite progressives and other crucial voter groups before the midterms, where lackluster polling for Democrats shows the party faces an uphill battle against a supercharged Republican base. 

Canceling student debt polls tremendously well with voters under the age of 45, particularly young men who may have borrowed money for community or technical college, said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, a firm that works with Democratic candidates and interest groups and advised the Biden presidential campaign. A Morning Consult/Politico poll from early April showed that 47% of those surveyed called student debt relief a top or very important issue.

Such a move could have particular impact for Black Americans, who are disproportionately affected by student loan debt. Statistics from the Education Data Initiative shows the average Black college graduate owes $25,000 more than white peers.

Nearly half of Black students owe an average of 12.5% more than they borrowed just four years out of college. During that same period, 83% of white graduates owe 12% less than they borrowed. Over half of Black student borrowers report that their net worth is less than their student debt balance. 

“President Biden, we agree that we shouldn’t cancel $50,000 in student loan debt. We should cancel all of it. $50,000 was just the bottom line. For the Black community, who’ve accumulated debt over generations of oppression, anything less is unacceptable,” NAACP’s Wisdom Cole said in a statement. 

When asked if she’d be supportive of Biden canceling just $10,000 per borrower in debt, Warren told reporters Thursday she would “not negotiate against” herself.

“We picked the number $50,000 because it does the most to help close the racial wealth gap, the gender wealth gap and promote equality of opportunity throughout the country,” Warren said Thursday.

Progressives spent Thursday praising Biden for engaging in a conversation.

Representative Mondaire Jones, a New York progressive Democrat, said while he thinks that Biden should cancel more, “even $10,000 would be transformational for millions of Americans.”

Moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin told reporters Wednesday that something needs to be done to provide relief on student loan debt, but he has concerns about “just writing it off completely.”

Republicans are arguing student debt forgiveness costs the government too much money and would add to inflation. GOP Senators John Thune, Richard Barr, Mike Braun, Bill Cassidy and Roger Marshall introduced a bill that would ban the president from canceling outstanding federal student loan debt due to a national emergency.

“After a huge increase in our national debt, thanks to the pandemic and reckless Democratic spending, the government does not need to be forgoing billions of dollars by providing student loan relief to Americans,” Thune said Wednesday.

A White House spokesperson said the administration’s actions, so far, on student debt have resulted in the approval of more than $17 billion in discharges to over 700,000 borrowers, plus tens of billions more saved by the 41 million borrowers who have benefited from the extended student loan payment pause.

As Travellers Lament Poor Air Conditioning at Lagos Airport - THISDAY

APRIL 30, 2022

BY   Chinedu Eze

In what seems to have become a perennial problem, air travellers have thumbed down the poor facilities at the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, now known as old terminal.

Those who travelled through the terminal in the last two weeks have severely complained about the poor cooling system, forcing some passengers to remove their clothes while going through the check in process at the airport terminal.

Over the years the facility has been known for power hiccups, which plunges the whole terminal into darkness even at most critical period in the night when most of the international airlines are processing their passengers.

THISDAY gathered that airlines have secured recharge lamps always waiting for the inevitable power outage and even officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) have acquired rechargeable fans to augment when there is outage. But such auxiliary support cannot replace the needed air conditioning system that ought to be at the airport.

An official of FAAN whose office is at the international wing of the airport, told THISDAY that almost every year new air conditioners are procured but they break down too often because contractors awarded the procurement contract usually buy “inferior ones that cannot stand the rigour of serving the terminal for 24 hours, so they break down too often.”

When THISDAY visited the terminal, many passengers on the queue to check-in were fanning themselves with anything they could lay their hands on. The handling company officials were using support fan tucked at corners in the counters. A Nigerian Customs official told THISDAY that it was not because there was no air conditioning, but that the heat was too much and remarked that FAAN could have envisaged the heat at this period and fortified the air conditioning system at departures.

At the public affairs department of FAAN, one of the officials told THISDAY that the heat was too much because of prevalent hot weather, noting that even at individual homes, people find the heat unbearable; that sometimes “air condition and fan blows hot air.

“We will continue to upgrade our equipment. This is heat period that even when you put A/C in your place it brings hot air at some time,” the official said.

The FAAN officials confirmed that there was no plan to move all the operations to the terminal because there are a lot to be done in the new facility before it could provide comprehensive service, which include expanding the ramp. Currently only airlines with small body (singe isle) aircraft that can facilitate passengers from the new terminal and that is why the big carriers still use the old terminal.

“I have been travelling through this airport for years and the air conditioning has remained inefficient. I recall a time I travelled from here and the air condition was working very well. We commended those managing the airport and hoped that they would continue to maintain that level of efficiency. But you know Nigerian government thing, good things don’t last and here we are still complaining of the same thing,” the passenger who craved anonymity, said.

However, the General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, told THISDAY that work has started to revamp the air condition system.

“I understand that work has started to reinforce the air conditioning. We hope that the problem will be solved soon,” she said, adding that moving to the new terminal would be a gradual process.

THISDAY investigation revealed that the old terminal is characterised by myriads of problems, which include the absence of charging pots, no enough seats, no efficient wifi and the most challenging problem besides poor air conditioning is the dilapidated baggage conveyor belt (carousel).

THISDAY also learnt that the baggage conveyor belt is not working. It breaks down after every two days. Recently passengers waited for a long time before they could collect their baggage and there were times baggage handlers had resorted to manual movement of the bags from the aircraft to arrivals, which was cumbersome.

Recently industry expert and Managing Director of Flights and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, told THISDAY that infrastructure facilities at the Lagos airport are bad, noting that the airport is not passenger friendly.

He observed that having a functional airport indicates that passengers would feel comfortable while in the terminal and that many things one could find at major airports in Africa or elsewhere are lacking at the airport.

“If you watch the video of how passengers’ bags are thrown about by handling company workers, you will agree with me that the airport is not passenger friendly. The checking in system is bad. The infrastructure is totally bad. Airports are built for the comfort of passengers, their luggage, cargo and for airlines. Any airport that does not meet this requirement is not worthy to be an airport. So after safety the next is customer comfort. How comfortable are the passengers? The Lagos airport is not friendly.

“It is only those that enter VIP lounge that have some comfort so the airport is segregating passenger comfort for a class of passengers. Ideally avio-bridges should have maintenance calendar but here they have to breakdown down before you think of replacing or rehabilitating them. FAAN is still concentrating on kinetic for aviation security when other airports are concentrating on bio-data, profiling and technology. They are talking of giving guns to aviation security personnel,” Akpan said.

Eid-Fitri: Security beefed up at airports - THE GUARDIAN

APRIL 30, 2022

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) says security has been beefed up at the nation’s airports ahead of the Eid-el-Fitri celebration.

Mrs Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, the acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs of FAAN said this in a statement on Saturday in Lagos.

Hope-ivbaze said: “As part of our preparations to ensure seamless facilitation of our highly esteemed passengers during the sallah celebrations and beyond, security has been beefed up at the airports.

” Also, facilities at our Airports have been generally improved upon and are functioning optimally.

” In addition, all other logistics have been upgraded and strengthened to provide for the expected increase in passenger traffic in and around our airports.

“Travellers are enjoined to look out for directional signages at the airports for guidance, as well as abide by all safety and security instructions at the airports,” she said.

The FAAN spokesperson assured passengers and airport users of absolute safety and security at the nation’s airports during sallah celebration.

She advised the general public and intending travellers to make early preparations towards completing their travel requirements in good time.

Hope-Ivbase said that receiving of dignitaries at restricted areas by security agents and airport officials was prohibited and anyone found wanting would be prohibited.

FAAN tightens security at airports - DAILY POST

APRIL 30, 2022

The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has beefed up security at airports ahead of the Eid-el-Fitri celebration.

Faithful Hope-Ivbaze, Acting General Manager, Corporate Affairs, issued a statement on Saturday.

Hope-Ivbaze said FAAN would ensure seamless facilitation of passengers during the Sallah celebrations and beyond.

The spokesperson said facilities at the airports have been improved upon and are functioning optimally.

“All other logistics have been upgraded and strengthened to provide for the expected increase in passenger traffic in and around our airports.”

Travellers were also enjoined to look out for directional signages for guidance, as well as abide by all safety and security instructions.

FAAN advised intending travellers to make early preparations towards completing their travel requirements in good time.

Receiving of dignitaries in restricted areas by security agents and airport officials remains prohibited and anyone found wanting would be prosecuted, Hope-Ivbaze added.

Holiday scams soar as Britons rush to book summer getaway - THE GUARDIAN UK

APRIL 30, 2022

People urged to be vigilant as fake flight and hotel adverts proliferate amid ‘national fraud epidemic’

Britons should take extra care booking their summer getaway as new figures show an increase in online holiday scams, with travellers being cheated out of thousands of pounds by fake flight and hotel adverts.

The number of scams linked to holidays was up by a third in the year to March 2022. Within that, fraud relating to flight bookings was 13% higher than in 2021, with victims, on average, losing £3,000, based on cases being reported to Lloyds Bank.

There was an even bigger rise in the number of scams linked to hotels, up 18%, with consumers typically losing £1,200. Fraud linked to package holidays was also up by a similar amount, with the average loss put at £2,300.

By far the biggest increase came from scams linked to caravan stays, with the number of cases more than doubling. However, the average amount lost in each case was much lower at £374.

The rise in holiday booking fraud is the latest development in what has been described as a national “fraud epidemic”. The end of Covid travel rules has resulted in a dash to book holidays but Liz Ziegler, Lloyds Banking Group’s fraud prevention director, said consumers should “not let their guard down. If it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is.”

Many of the scams started with fake ads on search engines or social media, with victims clicking on a link that appeared to take them to a genuine site. Fraudsters also lurked on real accommodation listing sites before convincing victims to transfer cash directly rather than via the platform. Other tactics include sending offers by email or text, pretending to be from a real company, the report said.

“Scammers are ready to cash in on any last-minute surge in bookings,” Ziegler said. “Book directly with trusted sites or travel agents, avoid following links on social media, and always pay by card for the greatest protection.”

Travellers are advised to seek out holiday firms that offer Abta or Atol protection. Lloyds said the safest way to pay for a holiday was with a debit or credit card. If a site or company wants you to pay another way, such as direct to a bank account or by wire transfer, it could be a scam, and it will be harder for you to get your money back.

Thousands face losing summer holidays as Passport Office delays continue - THE GUARDIAN UK

APRIL 30, 2022

BY  Anna Tims


Travellers told to apply as soon as possible as MPs accuse agency of running ‘absolute shambles’

A couple this week told how they face having to cancel their wedding because of continued delays at the Passport Office.

Lucia Thompson and her partner, both British nationals who live in Australia, have been told they must allow 13 weeks for their newborn baby’s British passport to arrive. They are due to marry in the UK next month; the ceremony was twice postponed because of Covid.

“We applied for our son’s passport in March as soon as the birth certificate was issued,” Thompson told Guardian Money.

“The helpline has told us we should have allowed more time, even though we had no control over when our baby was born. The cost of the wedding is about £40,000, not to mention the cost to guests flying in, and our insurance does not cover us for passport issues.”

Meanwhile, thousands of families face losing holidays they have booked for this summer because of the delays.

Weeks after the Guardian reported problems at the government agency, the backlog has not been tackled, and this week MPs accused it of operating an “absolute shambles”.

The Home Office is urging travellers to get their passport applications in “as soon as possible” as the new 10-week processing target is repeatedly being breached.

Travellers have been left hundreds of pounds out of pocket because of being unable to fly after their new passports failed to arrive in time. Some had been waiting up to five months from application.

Holidaymakers have complained of a system in meltdown, with uncontactable customer services, processing errors and a lack of appointments for the premium-price fast-track service. Others claim that their applications were delayed or even terminated because the Passport Office failed to log supporting documents.

According to the Home Office, more than 5 million people have applied for passports after the ending of Covid restrictions. The EU’s introduction of post-Brexit rules that require passports to have at least three months’ validity remaining has added to the pressures, and MPs have accused the Passport Office of failing to prepare adequately for a “foreseeable” increase in demand.

Simon Hoare, the Conservative MP for North Dorset, told parliament that the Passport Office helpline is letting down applicants desperate to track their applications. “Constituents going abroad for a family funeral, for a holiday or for business reasons are not getting through to the office, and are lied to by officials when they do,” he said.

Service shortfalls by the Passport Office’s contracted courier, TNT, are compounding the delays, with some deliveries taking weeks.

A Passport Office spokesperson told Guardian Money it has increased staff numbers by 500 in the past year to cope with demand and processed a record number of applications in March. It said more staff were being recruited by the private contractor that runs its helpline to improve the service, and Royal Mail and DHL had been contracted to help with deliveries.

“We have been advising people to allow up to 10 weeks when applying for their British passport as more than 5 million people delayed applying due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson said. “We urge people who need a new passport to apply for one as soon as possible. The vast majority of all passports applications are being dealt with well within 10 weeks.”

A TNT spokesperson said: “We took a number of actions to restore service levels across our HM Passport Office network – including operational resources, extra team support and additional customer support resources – and we are currently operating within the service level requirements agreed with the Home Office. We apologise to any customer who has experienced a delay with their passport delivery and we will continue to work with HMPO to resolve individual cases.”

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