The Passport Services agency of the United States Department of State has increased the processing time for international travelers to as long as eight weeks.
According to The Washington Post, the agency said it would now take between six and eight weeks to successfully process a passport application, a 50 percent increase from the four-to-six wait time experienced before May 31.
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State Department officials said it offers an expedited processing service for an additional $60, which speeds up the arrival time of passports to between two and three weeks. While officials declined to comment on the long wait times when asked by The Post, the State Department did indicate short-staffing was to blame.
U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration “requested a 2.5 percent increase in airport checkpoint screeners for fiscal 2020,” according to The Post. The increase in employees would help with the forecasted rise in travelers.
Despite the record number of passports and passport cards delivered each of the last two years, the number of passport specialists employed by the government has dropped by 14 percent.
Now, union leaders are complaining about mandatory overtime hours as a result.
“To address high passport workload levels this summer, the Department is leveraging all available resources to ensure processing times do not rise further and that they return to lower levels by September,” a State Department official who declined to be named told The Post.
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Expedia Group Lends a Hand With $275 Million Program
Expedia Group has announced its commitment of $275 million USD to help partners rebound from the impact of COVID-19 and fuel industry-wide recovery efforts.
Expedia Group’s recovery program is comprised of global initiatives to support industry recovery and property-level relief designed to help independent partners and small chains rebuild their business, attract high-value guests, and optimize cash flow.
Below are some of the program highlights.
To Restore Partners:
– Expedia Group is committing $250 million in marketing credits and financial relief. For each property that participates in the program, the company will reinvest 25% of the compensation earned in 2019 from the property into marketing credits for use with Expedia Group.
– To better understand when demand will return to a market, Expedia Group is providing proprietary data to track trends through a new analytics tool called Market Insights. The dynamic dashboard provides trends on website traffic, stay dates, and demand source markets.
– To support chains and owner groups, Expedia Group released a streamlined version of its optimized distribution solution that allows lodging suppliers to more effectively manage the distribution of wholesale rates among third party travel providers.
To Restore Destinations:
– To re-ignite demand through market awareness, Expedia Group Media Solutions is opening a $25 million fund for destinations. This recovery plan focuses on destination-led and co-op campaigns, which bring together destination and supply partners with similar audiences to manage their advertising spend while maximizing their conversions.
– To keep travel top of mind, Expedia Group is rolling out a series of global brand campaigns. For example, an online campaign from Media Solutions called Where Next? helps customers discover new destinations.
To Restore the Industry:
– To help furloughed and displaced workers advance during this time, Expedia Group has created a complimentary training and education program called Expedia Group Academy. The program offers skill development through online learning modules and live content led by Expedia Group subject matter experts and travel industry leaders.
– To ensure customers can book with confidence, Expedia Group created a new feature for lodging partners to highlight the health and hygiene measures at their properties.
– To meet the needs of cautious customers and ensure booking flexibility, nearly 70% of lodging rate plans on Expedia Group sites are now refundable.
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