In what is welcome news for travellers and the travel industry at large, more staff have been added to ease pressure on Australia’s passport office as the number of applications hit a daily record.
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts said a whopping 16,417 people had applied for passports on Tuesday alone, as COVID-weary Australians get bitten by the travel bug.
Mr Watts said the delays in passport applications and long waits to get in touch with the passport office were unacceptable.
“To help deal with phone delays, we are standing up a new additional call centre with 35 staff this week and 35 more staff next week,” he said.
“And a minimum additional 250 staff will come on board over the next six weeks to process applications.”
Pre-pandemic, there were about 8000 passport applications a day.
“This problem was predictable and is the result of the previous government dropping the ball and failing to properly plan for the surge in passport applications when borders re-opened,” Mr Watts said.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) said the fact the Albanese Government has acted quickly to address the current delays in passport applications with an additional call centre “is very welcome news for travelling Australians and Australia’s travel businesses.”
AFTA CEO Dean Long said of the news, “The additional delay in approval and delivery times for both new applications and renewals has created significant stress for travelling Australians and travel agents.”
“Our members have been dealing with a rapid uptick in bookings from the moment the international travel ban was lifted. While we have consistently advised throughout the past couple of years that anyone with less than six months on their Passport to start the renewal process, many Australians decided to let their passports lapse until they could travel again.
“It’s not only been the stress of not knowing and the delayed approvals and delivery. Unfortunately for some, the non-arrival of their Passport within the stated timeframe has meant not only rescheduling but, in some cases, cancellations.”
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