A North East mum has described how she's been left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after passport chaos caused her and her two children to miss their flight.

Sophie Thompson had been due to take her daughters on a dream holiday to Spain but a delay in the processing of a passport meant they could not travel.

The Great Ayton family's nightmare began after the passport for Ilsa, 7, arrived within weeks of an application - but her five-year-old brother Mason's was nowhere to be found.

The Northern Echo:

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After unsuccessful attempts to get the five-year-old's passport, Sophie travelled to the Durham Passport Office for three days running only to learn on Saturday it was not ready.

She said: "I cried my eyes out. It was absolutely gutting - devastating. It felt like the world had come crashing down - especially for the children. It is their first time going away. 

“I think the government should start being held accountable for people missing their holidays due to the incompetence of the situation with passports. People have lost a lot of money and not money they can afford to lose especially in a cost of living crisis."

The Northern Echo: Queues at Durham passport office Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT Queues at Durham passport office Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

She added: "We applied for two children's passports on April 13, 2022, and one child’s passport arrived within three weeks.

"Twelve weeks later the second child’s passport was nowhere to be seen.

“We were due to take our first ever family holiday on July 4 and needed the passport by the weekend.

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“After spending weeks calling the advice line and getting no further forward I went to Durham passport office with my friend on Thursday.

“It took Durham two hours to actually find out where the passport was and after they located it in Liverpool we were told to come back the next day.”

The Northern Echo: Queues at Durham passport office Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTQueues at Durham passport office Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

They returned on Friday where they had to wait for a further five hours in a queue only to be told that Liverpool had put the travel dates down incorrectly, even though these had been emailed through several times.

She said: “They said they were resolving the issue and after waiting another two hours, Durham passport office said they were waiting for Liverpool to just authorise everything and they could print the passport."

Then at 6pm, still in Durham, Sophie was told to call back at 8am on Saturday to collect the passport.

On Saturday, after repeatedly being told it would be ready, they learned at the end of the day it was not.

As a result, her friend Jodie Sargeant stood in queue all day on Monday and within minutes to go until the closing time she was told the passport was ready.

She said: "It was touch and go. For four days I watched the despair of families as they missed flights and lost their holidays.

"The staff at the door did everything they could to help. Why there is such an issue? It needs resolving."

Jodie said the family, including dad Liam Bulman, had paid nearly £294 for single tickets to Palma and had lost a day of their holiday.

A HM Passport Office spokesperson said: "Staff are processing approximately 250,000 passport applications each week, and between March and May 98.5 per cent of applications were completed within the published processing time of ten weeks. 

“For the small percentage of customers whose applications take longer than ten weeks, there is an expedited service at no additional cost to help ensure that they receive their passport ahead of their travel.”

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