SUMMER holidays could be at risk, with the Passport Office struggling to keep up with a surge in demand.
Ministers this week warned people to get their passport applications sorted as soon as possible.
It follows chaos at Easter as airlines axed thousands of flights, leaving travellers facing long delays.
With no travel restrictions in place for those returning to the UK, the summer holidays will see many families take their first trip abroad in two years.
So, how can you ensure your summer break stays safe? And what should you do if it all goes wrong?
We answer all of your travel questions.
What’s going on with passport applications?:
New EU travel rules have come into play since Brexit, which mean all travellers must have at least three months left on their passports at the end of their trip, plus all passports need to have been issued within the past ten years.
On top of this, a staggering five million people have delayed renewing their passports because of the pandemic, according to government figures.
This, alongside post-Brexit rules, has led to chaotic delays at the Passport Office, with a huge influx of holidaymakers suddenly renewing.
If you’re unsure when your passport expires, check it now.
How long is the wait?
For new passports it is ten weeks, but if yours needs renewing, do it now.
There are fears among MPs that this ten-week target isn’t being met, so the sooner you apply for a new one, the less you’ll be at risk.
The easiest way to apply is online at gov.uk. It will cost £75.50 for an adult and £49 for a child.
Can I get one quicker?
If you’re in a sticky situation and can’t wait ten weeks, the only way around it is to pay more.
You’ll need to book an appointment at your nearest passport office — there are only seven in the UK: London, Newport, Peterborough, Durham, Belfast, Glasgow and Liverpool.
Depending on how quickly you need it, you can use the One Week Fast Track service which will set you back £142 for an adult and £122 for a child, or the Online Premium service, which can get you a new passport in two days, but costs a whopping £177.
Leaving it late is risky though, and emergency applications can’t always be relied upon as recent reports claim there are very few appointments available.
I heard flights are being cancelled?
The UKs two biggest airlines have axed thousands of flights since all Covid restrictions were lifted over the last month.
Budget carrier, easyJet, has cut about five per cent of flights on some days, including some with only a few hours’ notice.
What if mine is axed?
Don’t panic, you have a few options. Anyone whose flight gets cancelled is legally entitled to either a refund, a seat on a different flight or the chance to change their departure date.
On top of that, you might even be able to apply for compensation of up to £350, but only if you’ve been given less than 14 days’ notice.
Should I expect delays at the airport?
Yes, many major airports across the UK, especially Manchester, have been experiencing huge delays.
Sadly there is no way to dodge the queues, but arriving early will help ensure you get through baggage drop and security on time.
Manchester airport is advising passengers to arrive at least three hours ahead of their flight departure time.
If you live close to the airport, you might want to consider dropping your bags off the day before you fly – this service is offered by many major tour operators, including Tui.
I want to book a holiday, what’s the best way to do it?
If you are yet to book, the safest way to jet off is with an Atol-protected package.
Any operator selling you a flight and one other element, such as a hotel, villa or even car hire MUST provide you with an Atol — you can check if it’s offered by searching for the Atol logo on the website.
This ensures your money is safe and that you are not stranded abroad if the company you booked with goes bust.
Booking your flights and hotel separately will not give you the same protection as a package does.
What about Covid rules?
All Covid travel rules were scrapped on March 18 for anyone travelling to the UK.
This means you don’t need to worry about tests, forms or quarantine when returning from holiday, but you may still need to take a test for the destination you’re visiting.
What about other countries?
Heathrow says more than 50 per cent of destinations it serves still require some form of Covid-related admin, whether it’s a negative test, proof of vaccination or passenger locator form.
Check the rules for where you are going to ensure you have everything you need.
The best place to find the most up-to-date rules is on the Foreign Office website at gov.uk.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes. It is a must for all holidaymakers, even if you’re staying in the UK.
Go for a policy that offers Covid cover — we’re not out of the woods yet and things could still go wrong.
Bagging insurance with a decent provider is the best way to protect your cash.