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What TA? This is becoming beyond an inconvenience

Dear Sir,

I was pleased to see another call in today’s Royal Gazette(April 11, 2022) for the end of the Travel Authorisation requirement. Do we think the Government is listening?

Last June, my husband and I were unfortunate enough to be among the 400 people who were “trapped” in the system upgrade — as it was described to us after the fact — when people who had applied for a TA during the hours that the system was “down” had their applications fall into a cyber-vacuum. While this upgrade was done in the middle of the night, clearly those responsible for the system had not appreciated that there would be people in a different time zone applying for TAs during the period that the system was not functioning.

There was no message on the website and no auto reply to alert us that the system was not functioning. As a result, the last three days of our holiday were spent in a state of high anxiety wondering whether we would be able to board our flight home. Others suffered worse fates when they were indeed denied boarding, incurring considerable extra expense and inconvenience. The Government apologised. I do not know whether reimbursement was offered for increased costs, as luckily after spending hours on hold to the Covid hotline and sending numerous e-mails, our TAs eventually came through in time for our flight.

Can you imagine the stress of worrying that we weren’t going to be able to get our flight home, knowing that the next flight to Bermuda was in two weeks’ time? The holiday was lovely, but we did not want — nor would we have been able to afford — another two weeks there! Flying home via the United States was not an alternative, as during that time the US was not allowing people to enter from Europe who were not US citizens. We would have been stuck there — because of a government computer glitch.

The revenue to the Government — the “stealth tax” — has been published, as have the earnings by resQwest; all significant amounts. We understand why the Government and Denis Pitcher do not wish to see this gravy train end.

There was another failure of the system just before this weekend. We were on holiday and applied for our TAs three days before our flight home — I do not believe you are allowed to apply in advance of three before the flight. After 40 hours, we had still not received our TAs. Again, nothing on the website and no auto-response e-mail to advise us that there was another glitch and that the system was not operational. Just high stress wondering again if we were going to be able to board our flight home.

We are not sure if the folks that are responsible for issuing these TAs consider that not everyone is boarding a plane in New York or Boston and can wait until a couple of hours before the flight departure time for receipt of the TA. Our journey from where we were staying to get to Heathrow to board the British Airways flight to Bermuda was a 24-hour process: taxi, train, connecting flight. This is not unusual and should be foreseen by the team issuing the TAs. Note to the TA folks: if you are on a through ticket, you are not allowed to board the connecting flight unless the paperwork complies with the requirements for your final destination.

Finally, three hours before the scheduled departure of our connecting flight, my husband got an e-mail to say his TA was ready to issue. Mine came with a faulty link, so I was unable to “click here” and sign and initial the waiver. So there we are on a train with no internet connection turning on our data roaming, which comes at a cost, to try to download a Bermuda Government form on an iPhone, sign and initial a waiver and then upload the form again over a very patchy data connection — every time the train went through a tunnel, I had to start again.

My husband is elderly; without me there to do this, there is no way he would have been able to manage, and might have turned up at the check-in without a TA and been denied boarding. He is not the only senior who is not dexterous with an iPhone.

This system has to end. It is overly burdensome and there is now no need for it — other than the Government wanting the revenue. Most other countries no longer require this sort of “permission”. This is a restriction on our freedom of movement and the stress of waiting for the TA issuance not only negates the effect of the holiday but is enough to make one quite ill with worry.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests that it is a deterrent to tourists wanting to visit. Remember when families planned special trips together? Elderly people who would bring their adult offspring and grandchildren all on a holiday together … can you imagine that now? The grandparents, three adult offspring and their spouses/partners and, for the sake of this discussion, each offspring having two children. That’s 14 people. We have all seen these family groups in the past on our beaches and in our hotels. In the past … and they will stay in the past because once they realise they have to pay $560 in TA application fees, you know what they will say? “Why don’t we go to Florida instead?”

Senior citizens are the group with the most disposable income and, after the enforced containment of the pandemic, they will be wanting to travel, to see family and to visit places that they want to see while they are still able. We are actively turning them off with the cost, the hassle and the worry.

We are all tired of the Government telling us what to do. Now we are telling them that we are fed up of the TA and it needs to go away.

Please ...

ELSPETH WEISBERG

Warwick

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Published April 16, 2022 at 7:30 am (Updated April 16, 2022 at 7:23 am)

What TA? This is becoming beyond an inconvenience

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