British Airways has called on the UK’s Border Force to tackle ‘serious inefficiencies’ that are causing both citizens and visitors to endure long delays when arriving at UK airports.
In a submission to the Home Office, the airline raised concerns that Britons and visitors are facing long and frustrating queues to pass through immigration, with some having to wait more than an hour after some international flights.
It also said that with Brexit just around the corner the UK needs to show that it’s an easy place to travel to.
The airline said only a third of the 29 self-service eGates at Heathrow Terminal 5 are ‘routinely’ open and that they usually shut ‘prematurely’ at 11pm despite the fact passengers are still making their way off flights leading to ‘massive queues and frustrating delays.’
Raghbir S Pattar, British Airways’ Director of Heathrow, said: “It is a constant frustration to us and to our customers that after a long flight they have to stand in queues, sometimes for over an hour, just to get back into the country.
“And it is a dreadful welcome for visitors to the UK to be faced with a packed immigration hall and the prospect of a frustrating delay to the start of their holiday or business trip. It adds insult to injury when you’re stuck in a queue but can see numerous gates which just aren’t being used.”
“We wholeheartedly support the essential role the Border Force has to protect the UK but more must be done to prevent these unnecessary delays.
The Home Office strongly disagrees and said the airline is misrepresenting the situation.
“This statement significantly misrepresents the experience of the vast majority of passengers arriving at Heathrow this summer,” a spokesperson said.
“More than 99 per cent of British and European passengers arriving at Heathrow are dealt with within 25 minutes. For passengers from outside the European Economic Area, 87 per cent of passengers have been dealt with within 45 minutes.
“Border Force and British Airways have an agreement to close the Terminal 5 ePassport gates at 11pm every evening. In recent months, Border Force has kept the gates open beyond 11pm – often to accommodate passengers arriving on delayed British Airways flights.