Recent weeks have seen widespread media coverage of log queues at London’s Heathrow Airport, with plenty of criticism levelled at the UK Border Force following reports of passengers waiting two-and-a-half hours to go through passport control.
Service standard fail
According to reports, there was only one day in July when Border Force met its target of processing 95 percent of passengers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) within 45 minutes.
Passengers from outside the EU and several European countries spent up to two hours and 36 minutes waiting in immigration queues.
A lack of Border Force resourcing is widely blamed for the queues. With Border Force staff numbers significantly down compared to twelve months previously, the agency is said to be suffering poor staff retention rates.
“The vast majority of people who arrive at Heathrow get through the border within our service standards,” said a Home Office spokesperson.
“But we understand the frustration for those who have experienced longer waits and remain fully committed to working with our partners to reduce waiting times as far as is possible. At the same time, we will not compromise the essential checks we carry out at the border which keep our country safe.
“We are making sure Border Force has the resources it needs and are deploying 200 additional staff at Heathrow over the summer.”
Difference of opinion
British Airways Chief executive Alex Cruz called on Border Force to get its act together. “We need more than UK-only lanes to show Britain is open for business, and that includes Sajid Javid taking immediate action to address this border farce once and for all,” he told Sky News.
Tony Smith, former head of the Border Force and chair of the International Border Management and Technologies Association, told the BBC that airlines also needed to help.
“What we don’t control in government is the aircraft coming in, what times they arrive, how many people are on them. So it does require some input from the airports and the airlines about how they can help.”