Christmas chaos at Heathrow: 'Thousands' forced to queue AGAIN

Christmas chaos at Heathrow: Fury as ‘thousands’ are forced to queue for passport control after ‘e-gates break’ AGAIN – as travellers slam ‘outrageous’ parking £350 charges

  • Passengers claimed there were thousands backed up at passport control due to yet another e-gate crashing
  • They said that they were waiting for hours to get to the immigration area when it would take about six minutes
  • It comes as other travellers vented at the ‘outrageous’ parking charges for those who have been in quarantine
  • They said that they were faced with another £350 on their bill on top of the £2,450 to isolate in hotel at airport
  • But it comes amid positive news as hotel quarantine for passengers arriving in England was scrapped at 4am

Travellers have blasted Heathrow for huge queues snaking through the airport as festive flyers pile into Britain following the axing of the red list.

Passengers claimed that there were up to four thousand people backed up at passport control due to yet another e-gate crashing.

They said that they were waiting for hours to get to the immigration area when it would take around six minutes normally.

Their fury comes as other travellers vented at the ‘outrageous’ parking charges for those who have been quarantining at Heathrow.

They said that they were faced with another £350 on their bill on top of the £2,450 to isolate in a hotel at the airport.

But it comes amid positive travel news as hotel quarantine for passengers arriving in England was scrapped at 4am today.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told the House of Commons yesterday the 11 countries on the red list were to be removed.

Passengers claimed that there were up to four thousand people backed up at passport control (pictured today) due to yet another e-gate crashing

They said that they were waiting for hours to get to the immigration area when it would take around six minutes normally (pictured today)

Yet hours after the relaxing of restrictions were announced, desperate travellers told of mounting chaos at Britain’s busiest airport.

John Grimshaw flew back to Britain from his home in Chicago for his mother’s funeral and got caught up in the disorder.

He said that there were thousands of passengers queuing to get to passport control and branded Heathrow ‘a joke’.

He told MailOnline: ‘Just arrived from Chicago. E-gates down again, thousands of people lined up for passport control.

‘What the f***. I paid thousands for a business class ticket and no difference. This place is a joke. I was just told the e-gates were down and were being worked on.

‘I’m where it’s normally six minutes walk to the immigration area and we are stood still. There are probably three to four thousand people here.

He added: ‘Ten plus wide body aircraft arrived with 300 plus on each. This is unacceptable for this country’s principal airport.’

Others slammed Heathrow for the traffic on social media, with one saying ‘it is adding even more stress to an already stressful situation’.

Gerry Green wrote on Twitter: ‘Was in Immigration queue in Heathrow today, no social distancing, hot and sweaty, only two humans checking passports.

‘Then six more appear. No riot just comments about tea breaks etc. British humour still exists, despite mushroom treatment.’

And one person wrote online: ‘Isn’t there a way to better improve the queues and waiting times to check in at Heathrow T2?’

Teaching assistant Maan Harbi added last night: ‘We are supposed to departure at 15:00 but we are still on the ground 17:00 due to a technical issue with luggage system.’

Meanwhile Britons blasted Heathrow for the extra cost of parking their car while they were in hotel quarantine before the rules changed this morning.

Graham Else said he will have to pay £350 on top of his £2,450 stay in isolation due to the pricey parking at the airport.

He told the Telegraph: ‘My wife and I are caught up in the quarantine hotel debacle and arrived on December 8. I tried to extend my T5 Heathrow Long Term parking on the 9th, but was unable to do so online because my booked period had elapsed.

‘I now have the prospect of paying £33 per day for the excess days which means I will have a bill of more than £350 when my original term was approximately £140 for 21 days.’

He added: ‘My wife and I are pensioners and you can probably appreciate the impact of the hotel quarantine charge on our finances, so this extra whammy really hurts.’ Heathrow has been approached for comment.

This morning hotel quarantine for travellers arriving in England was abandoned following the Health Secretary’s comments yesterday.

The Cabinet minister told the Commons that the 11 countries on the red list will be removed at 4am on Wednesday. The list was resurrected last month in a bid to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant.

People arriving in the UK from 11 African countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia have been required to spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

Mr Javid said the spread of Omicron in the UK and the world means the travel red list is ‘now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad’.

Said Javid today confirmed all countries will be removed from the Government’s international travel red list because Omicron is already running rampant in the UK

He told MPs: ‘Whilst we’ll maintain our temporary testing measures for international travel, we will be removing all 11 countries from the travel red list effective from 4am tomorrow.’

He went on: ‘Those people already in managed quarantine, I’m told that the practice in the past on this has been requiring them to complete their quarantine period.

‘However, I do understand the importance of that and I have asked for urgent advice about what this means and I hope to act very quickly on just that.’

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay later said the Government would permit ‘early release’ of people who went into managed quarantine before the changes to the red list.

He said: ‘Anyone who has tested positive will need to continue to stay in managed quarantine.

‘This will require changes to regulations, and we will look to implement this as quickly as possible. And we will set out further specific guidance for affected individuals imminently.’

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, claimed the decision to remove all countries from the red list ‘makes complete sense but doesn’t go nearly far enough’.

He said: ‘If the red list isn’t necessary given that Omicron is established here at home, then neither are the costly emergency testing and isolation measures imposed on even fully vaccinated travellers, which again put us completely at odds with the rest of Europe.

‘It is testing that is the deterrent to travel, not the relatively limited red list.’

 

 

 

Travellers entering the UK are required to take a pre-departure test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test.

Mr Alderslade warned the key Christmas and New Year booking period will be ‘undermined’ unless testing rules are eased.

‘This is make or break for UK aviation and if Government is unable to row back from these restrictions over the New Year, it will need to step in with further economic support for a sector that again has been singled out,’ he added.

Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: ‘The removal of all the countries from the red list is a welcome recognition that these measures have little purpose when Omicron is rapidly becoming the dominant variant in the UK.

‘It is difficult to understand why the UK and devolved governments did not recognise that the same logic applies to the blanket, expensive and burdensome testing regime.

‘The UK is only country currently that requires both a pre-departure test and a post-arrival test for all arrivals, regardless of vaccination status. UK tests remain significantly more expensive compared to the rest of Europe.

‘They therefore place a heavy burden on families just as many were hoping to finally reunite with loved ones who live abroad over the Christmas period.

‘The four UK governments should urgently reinstate the pre-Omicron travel regime, or risk ruining Christmas plans for so many across the country.’

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of travel association Abta, said: ‘With the testing measures now extending over the Christmas and New Year period, and the industry quickly approaching peak-booking season for summer 2022, travel businesses are facing a very serious situation.

‘Consumer confidence in travel has suffered a significant setback, which will outlast these restrictions.

‘The Government must acknowledge this by bringing forward grant support to help businesses through the difficult weeks ahead.’

David Frost, chief executive of trade body South Africa Tourism Services, said: ‘This is welcome news but red-listing southern Africa for just three weeks caused incalculable damage to jobs and livelihoods in the region, with little discernible benefit to health outcomes in the UK.

‘The UK Government must now consign this blunt instrument to history and recognise the devastating impact red lists have to confidence amongst the travelling public.’

World Health Organisation director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the move, saying a blanket travel ban ‘doesn’t help’.

He told a press briefing on Tuesday: ‘I just would like to use this opportunity actually to appreciate the United Kingdom for lifting the travel ban.’

Travel expert Nicky Kelvin, head of the Points Guy UK, added: ‘The latest change to international travel guidelines, which comes into effect today, adds another step to the ever-changing rules for travellers returning to the UK.

‘My advice to Brits going abroad is to pack a test with them when travelling, such as the tests provided by Qured. Travellers can book an appointment within the specified period and take the test on a video call with a doctor.

‘Once the test results are uploaded, Qured will issue a test results certificate within two hours of submitting, which can then be presented along with the Passenger Locator Form on arrival in the UK.

‘The benefit of doing this is to avoid getting stranded somewhere and not being able to do a test – travellers can then have the results delivered in a timely fashion. Additionally, Qured offer an affordable service, costing around £30 per test.’

Source: Read Full Article