Hundreds line up outside passport office in Westwood amid massive backlog in requests

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Friday, July 23, 2021
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Hundreds lined up outside the passport office in Westwood on Friday morning amid a massive backlog in requests for getting or renewing passports.

WESTWOOD, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Hundreds lined up outside the passport office in Westwood on Friday morning amid a massive backlog in requests for getting or renewing passports.

The line wrapped around the building and included tired and frustrated would-be travelers, some of whom camped out early in the morning in the hopes of getting an expedited passport.

Many of them had travel plans in the coming days, some in the next few hours.

"Yesterday, I came earlier. I was here about 5:30 in the morning and was sitting out there in the huge line and they sent me home, said they were closed for the day," said Art Ortiz. "I had to come back today and the line's doubled and honestly, I have no words."

Kristine Akimyan said she had an emergency, booked a ticket but then realized her passport was expired. She was among those in line hoping to get their passport renewed.

"I missed my flight, I had to change my flight. So the system that I was trying to follow didn't work out. I turned mine in to be renewed back in April and it's somewhere in the mail," said Melanie Morrow.

Officials with the U.S. Department of State say the delays, which could take up to 18 weeks, are largely due to ripple effects from the coronavirus pandemic. The agency says it is dealing with staff shortages as travelers scramble to head overseas.

The department has since shut down its online passport appointment system, saying scammers are using bots to scoop up and resell appointments.

The department's website said it disabled its booking system entirely to "ensure our very limited appointments go to applicants who need them for urgent travel."

A department official says a backlog of 1.5 million to 2 million passport requests means that applications submitted now probably will not be processed until the fall.