Heathrow’s CEO has called on the UK government to “get a grip of Border Force’s performance”, amid reports of queues of up to six hours at border control.

John Holland-Kaye said that the airport was working with the PM’s Global Travel Taskforce to facilitate the safe restart of international travel after May 17, with the aim to “simplify and standardise the checks that are required, with a goal of returning to travel as it used to be”.

“Aviation has always led the UK economy out of recession, and we will do so again,” Holland-Kaye. “The PM’s Global Travel Taskforce can lead the way on reopening international travel and trade safely – but ministers must get a grip of Border Force’s performance so that visitors get a warm welcome to Britain, not a six hour queue.”

The call followed the publishing of Heathrow’s February traffic figures, which showed the airport welcoming fewer than 500,000 passengers over the month.

Heathrow said that the figure “capped 12 months with passenger numbers at their lowest since 1966”, citing restrictions including the ban on all but essential travel, blanket quarantines, and pre-departure and post-arrival testing.

The airport also said that limits on passenger flights, which would normally also carry freight, meant that cargo volumes remained 30 per cent down, in contrast to rival hubs including Frankfurt, Paris CDG and Amsterdam Schiphol, which had “returned to pre-Covid cargo tonnage levels”.

Heathrow said that it awaited an expected decision on the adjustment of Heathrow’s regulatory settlement, which would “help keep prices competitive and unlock investment in consumer service and resilience”.

Last month the airport reported an annual loss of £2 billion for 2020, with the number of passengers passing through its terminals falling to just over 22 million.

Heathrow airport reports £2 billion annual loss