The Home Office has outlined plans to allow holidaymakers and business travellers to skip queues at UK passport control by paying an extra fee.
Plans for premium fast-track processing were outlined in a consultation paper that said ministers are considering extending a service currently only available to first and business class passengers at Heathrow.
Initially targeted towards wealthier passengers and intended to make a profit, rather than just improve the service, the system would allow travellers to skip queues in airport arrival halls around the country. No details have yet been released on how much the fast-track processing could cost.
The consultation paper read: “We will set fees at a level that reflects the value of the product… As well as expanding the availability of these services, we also want to increase the charges above cost-recovery levels."
The paper added: “The income will be used to help fund the immigration system, secure the border and invest in improving processes… Fees for some premium services will be charged to the airline or port rather than directly to the travellers, although the airline or port may decide to pass on some, or all, of the cost of those services to travellers.”
The Daily Telegraph said a Home Office spokeswoman refused to rule out broadening the service to target economy class passengers in the future, adding “This consultation is part of an ongoing process to ensure that we can maintain a world class, competitive visa system which serves the ever-changing needs of our customers”.
Speaking of why the service would be run above cost-recovery levels, the spokeswoman went on to say: “We think it’s right to recover some of costs of running the immigration system and border controls by making sure that those who benefit directly from it, contribute appropriately.”
Members of the public now have three weeks to give their views on the new proposals following the launch of the consultation paper yesterday.
In 2012, severe passport control delays at UK airports saw Border Agency staff moved from other duties to ease congestion. Passengers departing planes faced queues of up to two hours, with British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh branding the delays “pathetic”.