Travellers face new fast lane charges
13 September 2016 07:25
Unions have called the scheme a "ridiculous idea"
Travellers are to be charged to use fast lanes to get through passport checks in an attempt to cut queues.
The Home Office says it is working with some airport operators to introduce the scheme but denies reports in the People newspaper that it will be introduced in every UK airport with a charge of at least £5 per person.
At Gatwick airport, passengers face having to pay £17.50 on top of the price of their airline ticket to use a fast lane through passport control on arrival and through security on departure.
Unions are calling the move a "gimmick".
The scheme could mean those who do not pay are forced to wait even longer if staff who have been diverted to running the premium system and are not replaced.
A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said: "This is a ridiculous idea that exposes just how understaffed our borders are. What happens if everyone opts to pay £5? We're back to square one.
"Instead of gimmicks like this, the government needs to properly invest in staff to work at ports and airports because the shortages are there for all to see."
Mark Gribbin, chairman of the ISU, which represents borders, immigration and customs workers, says staffing levels are inadequate. "There are simply not enough staff. Our members are working hours on end under oppressive, often hostile conditions," he told members.
"Managers are under severe pressure to contain queues, creating still more pressure for frontline staff. It's only a matter of time before [there is] serious public disorder and, who knows, even mass breach of the border."
The Home Office told the Guardian its Border Force is "working closely with several airport operators to introduce a fast track passport control service, which will provide passengers with another choice of a secure and convenient route through the UK border."
The expansion of the scheme follows a government consultation in 2013, in which the possibility of charging for quick passage through passport control has been raised. It's suggested that money raised through the scheme will help fund the improvements in immigration systems and border security.
However, there are currently no plans to roll out the service to all airports in the UK.
Paying out to get through the fast lanes may be an added expense for holidaymakers. However, taking out travel insurance can give peace of mind by helping with other travel-related hassles.