British Airways has called on the Home Office to tackle ‘serious inefficiencies’ at UK immigration, which it says are “causing British citizens and visitors to endure long queues and frustrating delays when arriving at UK airports”.
The carrier highlights the lack of use of e-gates at Heathrow T5, saying that “routinely” only one third of the 29 gates are open, and that they are “usually shut prematurely at 11pm while customers are still making their way off flights causing massive queues and frustrating delays”.
BA says that as well as issues with families returning from holidays facing long queues at immigration, it is concerned that “with Brexit just round the corner, more than ever, the UK needs to show that it’s an easy place to travel to”.
“Ensuring as many of the e-gates as possible are in use not only means faster passage for eligible travellers but it also eases waiting times for those customers not able to use the automated gates including those travelling with children under the age of 12,” the airline said in a statement.
BA’s director of Heathrow Raghbir S Pattar said that the carrier “recognises some of the steps being taken by Border Force to improve the service they provide to travellers”, but warns that “more focus must be put on operating in the most efficient and flexible way and ensuring that passengers’ needs are put first”.
“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,” continued Pattar.
“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.”
Trade body Airlines for Europe recently called for more to be done to reduce immigration delays at European airports, with understaffing and stricter security checks contributing to a 300 per cent increase in delays at some airports compared to last year.