Airline hands out snacks for 2.5-hour arrivals wait
Home Office vows extra staff in response to ‘unacceptable’ queues
Passport control queues at Heathrow Airport reached two and a half hours last month, new figures show.
Data obtained by airline Virgin Atlantic shows UK Border Force achieved its target of processing 95% of passengers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) within 45 minutes on just one day in July.
The longest queues were on July 6, when non-EEA visitors spent up to two hours and 36 minutes in immigration queues.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger told the Press Association: “This summer, significant queues at Border Control mean that thousands of visitors have regularly faced the longest queues in London to get their passports checked, often over two hours, leaving them frustrated before they’ve even started their trip.
“At Virgin Atlantic we’re doing our bit to try and help our international customers (by) providing extra staff as well as drinks and snacks for the queue, but only the Border Force can resolve these unacceptable queue times.
“We all agree security and safety at our airports is vital and remains our top priority, but other countries are managing their borders more effectively.
“At a time when the UK needs to show the world it is open for business, the Government and Border Force need to provide a great first impression for every visitor, every time.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has called for the Home Office to allow visitors from “low-risk countries” to use electronic gates.
He previously blamed a “lack of staffing” for long queues during an England World Cup game. The Home Office said those queues were partially caused by a computer failure and a large number of vulnerable adults and children arriving.
British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz warned last week that Heathrow’s queues were “significantly worse” than elsewhere in the continent.
Writing in The Times, Mr Cruz said: “Two-hour queues are fast becoming the norm.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The 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.
“We are making sure Border Force has the resources it needs and are deploying 200 additional staff at Heathrow.” Home Secretary Sajid Javid has suggested that Jeremy Corbyn should quit as Labour leader following controversy over his visit to a cemetery in Tunisia containing memorials to terrorists.
Mr Javid said the leader of any other mainstream political party would have to go if they did the same.
Questions were raised over the 2014 trip after the Daily Mail published pictures of the Labour leader holding a wreath near the graves of some of those responsible for the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Labour said Mr Corbyn had already made clear he was paying respects