Heathrow arrivals are forced to wait for FOUR hours

Heathrow arrivals are forced to wait for FOUR hours as expectant mothers, pensioners and young children wilt in the queue while e-gates stand empty

  • Pictures showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK
  • Latest bout of queueing chaos began Sunday and repeated every day this week  
  • E-gates can’t be used by under-12s, so families corralled to the few staffed desks 
  • Are you queuing at Heathrow today? Email [email protected]  

Heathrow arrivals have been forced to wait for four hours at immigration as pregnant women, pensioners and families with young children packed together in interminable queues while e-gates ‘stood empty’.

Pictures taken yesterday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK, in scenes that are now wearily familiar due to officials failing to tackle an issue that has been going on all summer.

The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week.

One passenger who arrived yesterday tweeted: ‘Chaos at Heathrow airport Terminal 4. Four hrs waiting to go through immigration. Families with children, pregnant ladies & old folks everyone had to wait. Is that human?’

The Home Office has maintained its unapologetic stance despite widespread public fury, with a spokesman saying earlier this week that travellers would ‘need to accept’ increased wait times due to high summer demand and the need to check Covid documents. Border Force has also blamed staff shortages for the chaos. 

The travel industry is furious about the scenes, with firms warning they risk damaging the UK’s reputation abroad and putting off future visitors.  

Pictures taken yesterday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK

Email [email protected] 

A second passenger wrote: ‘Passport control at Terminal 5: Empty e-gates. Yet families with kids under 12 have to queue for 2 hours. Two desks open to UK citizens, kids and babies are screaming #disgrace.’

‘Chaos at Heathrow airport Terminal 4. Four hrs waiting to go through immigration. Families with children, pregnant ladies & old folks everyone had to wait. Is that human?’

Under-12 cannot use e-gates due to limitations with the facial recognition technology, meaning families with young children have to use manned desks. 

The scenes will be wearily familiar due to officials failing to tackle an issue that has been going on all summer

Heathrow’s summer of queuing chaos: So when WILL the government get a grip? 

May 17 – Passengers flying into the UK faced ‘bedlam’ at the border with some facing a three hour wait at the Heathrow passport gates. Travellers told MailOnline how they were ‘terrified of catching Covid’ while being crammed into the airport’s border hall this morning.

July 12 – Passengers said they had ‘never seen anything like’ the queues at Heathrow Terminal 5 as officials blamed the scenes on staff having to self-isolate. A passenger said: ‘Total chaos at security at Heathrow airport T5 this morning. Never seen anything like it.’ 

July 20 – 90-minute queues were seen at arrivals after the government failed to update Passenger Locator Forms ahead of its ‘Freedom Day’ rule changes – resulting in double-jabbed Britons being rejected at e-gates.  

August 2 – Queues of passengers stretched the entire length of Terminal 5. Officials again blamed staff having to self-isolate. A spokesman quoted figures showing that one in four Border Force guards were reported to be off sick with Covid or self-isolating. 

29 – Three-hour waits were reported at passport control. A day later the Home Office risked fury as it said passengers ‘need to accept’ the risk of delays at peak times. 

30 – One passenger describes the immigration process in Terminal 2 as ‘incompetent and ridiculous’, adding that he was forced to wait for more than five hours with ‘no water, no bathroom’

31 – One traveller wrote on Twitter that a queue for families with children had lasted three hours.

September 1 –  Pictures and video from around midday showed long snaking lines of travellers packed closely together with no social distancing, as some aired themselves with leaflets in an attempt to stay cool. 

2 – Yet more chaos with waits of up to four hours. 

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union.

He tweeted a picture taken two hours into the queuing process, with hundreds of people still in front of him in the line.

On Tuesday, one traveller wrote on Twitter that a queue for families with children had lasted three hours.

Another described the wait for families as ‘shameful’, adding that the UK ‘must be the only country which treats families worse than adults’.

On Monday a passenger said the immigration process in Terminal 2 was ‘incompetent, ridiculous’, adding that he was forced to wait for more than five hours with ‘no water, no bathroom’.

Heathrow tweeted that Border Force is ‘currently experiencing some delays as they conduct additional spot checks to ensure passenger compliance with the UK Government’s latest entry requirements’.

It went on: ‘Waiting times at the border have on occasion been unacceptable and we have called on the UK Government to address the problem as a matter of urgency.’

Yesterday, travel firms told MailOnline the length queues were damaging to Britain’s image and risked putting off future visitors.

Clive Wratten CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA), described the scenes as ‘very worrying’. 

He said: ‘As the world continues to open up safely, it is essential that there is enough staff and support at all points of a journey. 

‘The travel experience needs to be as frictionless and consistent as possible to give all travellers the confidence they need to return in large numbers.’ 

Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, which describes itself as the UK’s leading independent British travel agents, said: ‘From a visitor perspective, arriving into Heathrow is the first impression many will get of the UK – and first impressions matter.’  

The issue has been exacerbated by a shortage of Border Force agents and many going into self-isolation for Covid.

But earlier this week a senior Tory MP insisted the issues should have been addressed ‘a long time ago’.

‘This has been a constant problem throughout the pandemic and I appreciate the Home Office may have had difficulties recruiting to the Border Force but that is not a new problem,’ the MP told MailOnline.

‘They should have addressed this a long time ago. It adds to travel uncertainty and it is not good for the travel industry or the travelling public. The Border Force needs to be better organised.’

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Our utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public and we will never compromise on security, and on ensuring passengers are compliant with the current health measures, which means passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border.

‘The rollout of upgrades to our eGates to automate checks for health requirements is ongoing, with many eGates already in operation and more to be added over the coming months to increase automated checks on passengers at airports.

‘However, for safeguarding reasons families with children under the age of 12 are not permitted to use the eGates.

‘Where there are high volumes of families with young children, such as over the summer holidays, Border Force may dynamically deploy resources to frontline desks instead and we continue to flexibly deploy our staff to make the process as smooth as possible.’ 

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