Swedish police to double passport slots to bring down queues

Police in Sweden are to hire new passport staff, extend opening times, and double the number of available appointments in a push to reduce waiting times.

Swedish police to double passport slots to bring down queues
People wait in the queue for emergency temporary passports at Arlanda Airport. Photo: Jessica Gow / TT

As Swedish passports expire every five years, and many people did not renew passports during the pandemic, there has been a surge in applications for renewal this year. In the worst-hit parts of Sweden, it is currently impossible to get a new appointment to renew a Swedish passport before the start of December. 

Police in Sweden have gone so far to declare the shortage of slots “a special national event”, or nationella särskilda händelse, a category usually used for extreme events such as terror attacks, or gangland massacres. 

In a press release issued on Thursday evening, Per Engström, the officer appointed to lead efforts to solve the “special national event”, said that police were recruiting 400 new staff, extending opening hours, and bringing in digital solutions to speed up processing times. 

“We are working across the board to improve the situation,” he said. “From Monday onwards we are going to increase opening times successively and bring in the possibility to book passport times even outside office hours.” 

The police are also calling on students studying to be police, and even ordinary police officers to work extra hours to help reduce the queues.  

The police have also changed the booking system so that applicants need to enter their personal numbers to book times, and have also brought in a system to prevent so-called ‘bots’ making multiple bookings. 

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What can SAS passengers do if their flight is affected by pilots’ strike?

Scandinavian airline SAS has issued advice to passengers likely to be affected if the company does not come to an agreement with its pilots to divert a strike scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

What can SAS passengers do if their flight is affected by pilots’ strike?

Passengers can rebook equivalent flights for free and are advised to check whether their flight will be affected, SAS said.

A deadline for resolution of an ongoing conflict between the two sides has been set for Tuesday night. If no agreement is reached, SAS pilots in Norway, Sweden and Denmark will begin striking on Wednesday.

In a statement, SAS said that several services and thereby many passengers will be affected by the strike.

But it also stated that some services would still operate on Wednesday if the strike goes ahead.

“SAS is taking precautionary measures to support customers whose flights will be impacted by a potential strike,” SAS said.

“Due to peak season, the availability of equivalent flights will be highly limited. Therefore, SAS is taking precautionary measures to enable customers to plan alternatives to their scheduled flight,” it said.

“SAS offers passengers booked on SAS flights between June 27th [and] July 3rd 2022  the option of rebooking the ticket, free of charge. Passengers can rebook to a SAS flight on another date, within the next 360 days, to the same destination if the same service class as the original ticket is available,” it said.

To see if their flight is likely to be affected, passengers are advised to check the status of their flight on the SAS website. Rebookings can be made via the “My Bookings” section.

Passengers who booked their ticket via a travel agent or tour operator should contact them directly, SAS said.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Rebooking may take longer than usual, especially for passengers contacting the airline over the phone.

“The potential strike is causing a high pressure on SAS’ customer service and the waiting time is longer than usual,” SAS said.

“Customers will continuously receive information and updates via SMS, email and on our website. To be able to support customers impacted by a potential strike, SAS is strengthening customer service and call-centres for rebooking where possible,” it said.

The strike, involving around 1,000 SAS pilots, is scheduled to begin on June 29th after the collective bargaining agreement by which the pilots’ salary and working terms are determined expired in April. Pilots are currently working under the terms of the expired deal.

The creation of two SAS subsidiaries, SAS Connect and SAS Link, is reported to be a point of contention in negotiations over a new collective agreement.

Pilots’ unions in all three Scandinavian countries will take part in the strike, should mediation not achieve a result.

READ ALSO: SAS pilots’ strike scheduled to begin on June 29th