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Heathrow passengers could face delays this summer

29 June 2018 07:57

Heathrow passengers face queues at passport control this summer

Heathrow passengers face queues at passport control this summer

Passengers travelling to Heathrow this summer could continue to face lengthy queues, a top Home Office official has warned.

Arrivals face delays getting through passport control at the UK's busiest airport, particularly those flying in from countries outside Europe.

Sir Philip Rutnam, Home Office permanent secretary, told MPs that there was a "real concern" of more queues due to an increase in numbers traveling in from outside the European Economic Area.

The warning comes weeks after British Airways hit out at Border Force officials over continuing queues at the London airport.

Summer challenge

Sir Philip insists the authorities are doing "every we can" to address the problem but "I can't say there won't continue to be a challenge over the summer".

He told MPs on the Public Accounts Committee: "It is a real concern. It is connected to a pattern in which travel to the UK has been rising, particularly travel from non-EEA countries which probably partly reflects the exchange rate, the attractiveness of the UK as a tourist and business destination.

"Non-EEA travellers at present take longer to process than EEA travellers.

"This puts extra burden, particularly at Heathrow which has a particularly high proportion of those travellers.

"We are doing everything we can. Heathrow is, has been, a challenging operating environment for a number of reasons but we are doing everything we can."

Beyond predictions

Border Force director general Paul Lincoln said: "The levels that we have seen this year were beyond the predictions of Heathrow and the airlines themselves."

There has been a 3.7 million increase in passengers from outside the EEA, two million at Heathrow alone, he told MPs.

Because the e-gates at Heathrow are largely only able to be used by holders of EEA passports with electronic chips, that puts pressure on manned desks.

Some 40,000 people a week at Heathrow were not able to be processed at e-gates, he said.

There would be 200 additional staff over the summer but Lincoln noted that Border Force officers "don't work in a vacuum in terms of just trying to process passengers", and have important security duties to fulfil as well.

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