Be patient say experts - but some locals are losing a lot of money due to passport delays
By: Holly Brantley
By: Holly Brantley
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Once warm weather arrives, summer vacation usually isn't far behind.
But if you plan to fly, passport problems might leave you grounded. In January, a new law took effect requiring U.S. citizens to have a passport when flying out of the country. Despite the state department's warnings, the change created a huge demanded as they try to distribute a record number of passports.
So, a processing time that once took six to eight weeks, jumped to three months or more.
Kristi Lazarova lives in Cape Girardeau. On May 23rd, she's scheduled to fly to Bulgaria to play tennis. She has her tickets, and her trip is paid for. She filled out her application in plenty of time and did everything right, but due to the backlog, her passport still hasn't arrived.
"Tennis is my favorite sport," said Kristi. "I'm going to Bulgaria to train, and to play. I was lucky enough to get this plane ticket. It's going to be really hard to get another one."
Travel experts say Kristi is not alone. "People are reluctant to put money down on a trip if they aren't sure they are going to get to go," said Carolyn Kempf of Elite Travel in Cape Girardeau.
Kempf says stressed out travelers call her everyday asking for help. Sometimes their trips are only days away, and there passports still haven't arrived.
Kempf says the problem isn't at the Post Office, it's at the Passport Processing Centers themselves.
Kempf says travelers, like Kristi, are playing by the rules, picking up their passports and filling them out on time. But the backlog is turning what once took weeks into months. Kempt says she's been able to help many of her clients get their passports. She hasn't lost a trip yet. But others aren't as lucky.
"What we're finding is people aren't getting great service to track their passport," said Kempf.
Try to contact the processing centers and you will find they are experiencing a high volume of calls. The voice on the message insists they are working overtime to make sure no one misses a trip, and doing all they can to help travelers.
"My best advice is to get a passport now if you don't have one, even if you don't think you'll need it in the near future. Go ahead and get it," said Kempf. "If you're booking an upcoming trip a travel agent will be able to help you."
Meanwhile, Kristi is still waiting. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed," she said.
Processing fees for passports can get expensive if you need one quickly.