Passport disaster: woman ends up with wrong photo in passport

Natalie Peel and her disastrous passport

The passport backlog has lead to a shocking mistake - which could scupper one woman's holiday plans. The Passport Office, which has been overwhelmed by applications in recent weeks, returned Natalie Peel's passport to her this week - with another woman's photograph.

And she's not the only person to have discovered mistakes during the recent crisis.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Natalie Peel, a 27-year-old teacher from Bacup in Lancashire, had recently married, so sent her passport off to be renewed and have her name changed. She thought she'd left plenty of time, because she sent it on 27 June and was only set to travel in August.

However she told the Daily Mail that her passport arrived back at the beginning of July, featuring another woman's photograph alongside her details. She said: "It's disgraceful, especially when you put a certain amount of trust in the government.... I sent my details in confidence and I expect them to be handled securely. God knows where my picture has ended up". She added that she was worried whether there would be time to correct the mistake before she was due to travel.

A Passport Office spokesperson told the Daily Express that it had launched an enquiry, adding; "Ensuring that passports are issued correctly is an absolute priority and any breaches of our high standards are examined thoroughly. We are making contact with Ms Peel to ensure that a replacement passport is issued in time for her to go on holiday."

And Peel isn't the only victim of a mistake by the Passport Office during this crisis.

Last week it emerged that Barbara Cheeseman, of Kingswood, Bristol, had received two passports. She applied on 27 May after her husband's father fell ill in Cyprus, and received the first passport last week. Then a day later her husband received his passport - and she got a second one - with a different number. The couple told the Bristol Post that they were confused because they didn't know which was the legitimate passport.

Shadow Immigration Minister, David Hanson added that there were security concerns. He said:"It is extremely worrying. We have had examples elsewhere in the UK recently of people being sent the wrong passport and it shows that the Passport Office is under tremendous pressure at the moment and I will be asking the Home Secretary again on Monday at Parliamentary questions to investigate this type of incident."

A few days earlier a woman in Broughton in Wales received a passport, visa documents and birth certificate belonging to a Pakistani man from Lancashire. She said she hadn't been able to report the mistake because the Passport Office wasn't answering their phones.

Those who are facing mistakes, or long delays that leave them in fear of missing their holiday, will take no comfort from the fact that in some cases when passports finally arrive, they aren't being checked properly. Pauline Briggs from Kiveton Park, Rotheram, has hit the headlines after accidentally using her late husband's passport. The 64-year-old went through two security checks at East Midlands Airport before arriving in Fuerteventura where the mistake was discovered. Fortunately she was allowed into the country and arranged a temporary passport for her return.

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Passport disaster: woman ends up with wrong photo in passport

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.

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