Air­line hands out snacks for 2.5-hour ar­rivals wait

Home Of­fice vows ex­tra staff in re­sponse to ‘un­ac­cept­able’ queues

The Press and Journal (Moray) - - NEWS - BY NEIL LANCEFIELD

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

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