The Federal Government has issued a warning to more than a million Aussies hoping to get overseas as soon as possible that a Covid-induced backlog could see them waiting until 2022.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an end to the long-hated travel ban last week, with international flights resuming between Sydney and London and Sydney and Los Angeles from next month.
The international travel ban had been in place since March 2020, with plenty of Aussies forgetting or not needing to renew their passports during those 20 months.
But as Aussies continue to book flights overseas and go on the trips they’ve been waiting two years for, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) has warned they could be waiting longer, with a massive backlog of passport applications expected.
The first flights to Europe and the US will lift off on November 18, leaving hopeful jetsetters around five weeks to get their passport sorted.
According to DFAT analysis, published by The Australian, more than 1.3 million people put off renewing their passport due to border closures.
Another 600,000 delayed applying for their first passport, with plenty of Aussies not wanting to pay for a document that was essentially useless for the past year and a half.
In response to the worrying delay, DFAT has spent the past nine months frantically emailing more than 1.4 million people to remind them about their documents expiring.
A DFAT spokeswoman told the publication anyone hoping to get overseas should send in their passport application as soon as possible.
“Recent experience in the US and the UK has shown that there was a significant increase in applications ahead of international travel restrictions being lifted in these countries, resulting in long wait times for passports,” she said.
“While the department is doing everything it possibly can to prepare for a similar eventuality, longer than usual processing times cannot be ruled out.”
Aussies also need to be on alert for when their passport expires, with some nations refusing entry to passports with less than six months left on them.
It normally takes about three weeks to receive a passport, according to Australia’s Passport Office.
However Australians can pay an extra $220 for priority processing, with the office guaranteeing a wait of only two business days.
This two business day wait also hinges on Australia Post getting all of your passport documents to DFAT as quickly as possible.
The national postal service has been reported severe delays recently, thanks to the Covid pandemic and a surge in Delta cases putting thousands of Australia Post workers in isolation.
Australians are embracing international travel again with Qantas adding extra flights to its Sydney to London leg due to seats rapidly selling out.
Flight Centre boss Graham Turner told news.com.au that things would likely “get back to normal very, very quickly” once Australia hits Phase C – which is 80 per cent double dose vaccination.
“There’s still 18 international airlines flying into Australia … they don’t all have the same seat availability they did before but once you can travel without hotel quarantine, things will go back to normal,” he said.
Mr Turner predicted fares wouldn’t be “that expensive” and would likely be in line with the usual pre-Christmas rush prices.
“Everyone wants to see family at this time so there’ll be a fair bit of demand … but I think it’ll be normal, pre-Covid, high season prices once everything comes back on the market.”
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