Industry Leaders, Including British Airways, Sound Alarm on Long Queues at Heathrow
Fed up with queues of up to two hours at Britain’s main gateway - Heathrow Airport - industry leaders led by British Airways have slammed the UK Government for not addressing the problem.
British Airways Chief executive Alex Cruz said Heathrow’s queues were “significantly worse” than elsewhere in the continent, and called the situation at the airport a “border force.” He added that authorities should place less emphasis on creating dedicated lines for British passport holders after the country leaves the European Union on March 29 of next year, and find immediate solutions for foreign visitors.
“Two-hour queues are fast becoming the norm for those visiting from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), despite a target of no more than a 45-minute wait,” Mr. Cruz said writing for The Times .
“Even EEA citizens wait almost an hour. This is unacceptable, yet Nick Jariwalla, the head of Border Force at Heathrow, said recently that things were unlikely to change and it was unreasonable for his team to be expected to meet their targets.
“Queues are significantly worse than at many other major world airports. What kind of message does this send, as we try to build links outside the EU?”
Last month, some passengers at Heathrow's Terminal 4 were forced to wait three hours before being processed at immigration because of what Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said was a "lack of staffing" during England's second-round World Cup soccer game against Colombia.
But despite the outcry from the largest tenant at Heathrow, relief for travellers could be a long way off. Mr. Jariwalla has been quoted saying things were unlikely to change anytime soon, and it was unfair to expect his team to meet its targets.
A UK Border Force spokesman added: “The vast majority of people who arrive at Heathrow get through the border within our service standards.
“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.”
The UK Government seems reluctant to recognize the problem, judging from its public statements. The problem of long immigration queues is not limited to Heathrow: Savvy Traveller has observed waits of well over one hour at Gatwick Airport, south of London.
British Airways is owned by IAG, the airline group which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling. It is a member of the One World alliance.