Long queues at Heathrow Immigration
While passengers queued for up to three hours, there are fears for the UK's image, with the London Olympics only three months away
Published 28 April 2012 in News
Long queues through immigration at Heathrow airport on Friday blighted the experience of passing through Britiain's gateway. Some passenger have reported three-hour waits while others were concerned about catching connecting flights.
Alastair Campbell, the former Downing Street communications director was caught up in the Friday night queues. Tweeting about his experience he said : "If this is what Heathrow T5 border queue is like on an average Thursday, Olympic athletes should think about coming soon."
Only three or four border staff were on duty for EU arrivals on Thursday and three for non-EU arriving passengers, according to the Evening Standard newspaper.
A BAA spokeswoman said: "Immigration waiting times during peak periods at Heathrow recently have been unacceptable and we have called on the Home Office to address the problem as a matter of urgency.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "There is a real problem and the problem has emerged over the last few months.
"I'm not saying we should abandon checks, but it's a choice for the Government - you either look at the way you deal with people when they arrive at Heathrow or you recruit more staff.
"This is not just about the Olympics, this is about what happens before and after, it's about Heathrow as a world-class airport and it's about our reputation, and we need to make sure we get it sorted."
Responding to the most recent delays, a Border Force spokesman reiterated the response given during similar delays, most recently at Easter: "We will not compromise border security but we always aim to keep disruption to a minimum by using our staff flexibly to meet demand."
BAA confirmed that the long queues cleared overnight. There were no "significant" queues at immigration checks in Terminal 5 on Saturday morning, a BAA spokeswoman said.
With the olympics looming the one wonders if there is indeed a solution.
The Border Force chief insists that the vast majority pass through immigration control quickly and regarding concerns during the Olympics he said "we are fully prepared to managed busy periods during the Olympics and will be implementing our well-rehearsed plans".
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