COVID is like that Whack-A-Mole game at Chuck E. Cheese. You know the one, the rodents pop up and you whack them back into their hole and then another one pops up in a faraway corner. No matter how focused you are on the matrix of holes, one rodent will always pop up. And as we exit the pandemic and travel begins to return, a rodent at the US Department of State has popped up.
C’mon, it’s not political, I am just using it as an analogy! But I had a client and her child looking to head to Europe later this summer and the kiddo needed a passport renewal (those pesky 5-year expirations) and then the mole reared its head:
Routine service can take up to 18 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. The 18-week timeframe includes up to 12 weeks for processing and up to 6 weeks for mailing times on the front and back end.
Expedite service (for an additional $60) can take up to 12 weeks from the day an application is submitted to the day a new passport is received. The 12-week timeframe includes up to 6 weeks for processing and up to 6 weeks for mailing times on the front and back end.
Yes, you read that correctly. Standard service is 18 weeks. 16 weeks for the Department of State to do their thing, and another 6 weeks for the post office to do theirs (and I am suspect on that as I am still receiving Christmas cards). Expedited service? 12 weeks!
There goes that summer trip. Of course, there are options for emergency travel, but for most of us, travel is not an emergency. And most of us are not so fortunate as to live within a reasonable distance of one of the 27 in-person centers!
One of the third-party expediting services which used to be able to do it in 24-hours is showing a 90 business day wait for a new passport and 15-25 business days for renewal. And to think one time, I was able to facilitate a client getting a new passport within 8 hours complete with delivery to the airport for the client. Times have changed.
All of this is to say that passport information is a critical component of what we need to collect as travel professionals. Today in particular, it is critical to make sure we earn our clients’ trust and business by keeping them informed.
Perhaps now is a good time to send out a broadcast email to them letting them know. Perhaps now is a good time to contact your local newspaper, television or radio station, or some local podcasters. Just a thought.
As for me….I’m tired of Whack-A-Mole and you can now find me at the crane game!