Holiday nightmare as passport gates go down at major UK airports

Travellers have been reporting hours of delays following the e-gates outage

Rich Booth,Jonathan Kanengoni
Saturday 27 May 2023 11:03 BST
<p>The Home Office confirmed the issue is affecting airports nationwide (Steve Parsons/PA)</p>

The Home Office confirmed the issue is affecting airports nationwide (Steve Parsons/PA)

Electronic passport gates have gone down across UK airports.

The issue is likely to cause long delays for bank holiday travelers as all airports across the country that use the gates are affected.

The Home Office has confirmed the news - but did not say how long the fault would last.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are aware of a nationwide border system issue affecting arrivals into the UK.

“We are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and are liaising with port operators and airlines to minimise disruption for travellers.”

Issues at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, began on Friday night. All airports that use the e-gates are affected, meaning passengers flying are having their passports checked manually.

Unions have warned queues could build quickly.

Heathrow Airport issued a statement on Twitter - confirming the issue is ongoing.

Heathrow Airport tweeted: “We are aware of a nationwide issue impacting the eGates, which are operated by Border Force. This issue is impacting a number of ports of entry and is not Heathrow specific.

“Our teams are working closely with Border Force to help resolve the problem as quickly as possible and we have additional colleagues on hand to manage queues and provide passenger welfare. We apologise for any impact this is having to passenger journeys.”

Users on social media have been reporting delays and huge queues amid the holiday rush, as failing e-gates have left travellers stranded for hours at airports across the UK.

One user tweeted: “@HeathrowAirport Utter farce here at T5. E-gates down - been like that for hours so why the comlelete lack of organization? @SimonCalder”.

Another user warned those travelling to be prepared with food and water amid chaos across airports nationwide.

The issue comes at a busy time for airports, with traveller numbers expected to increase as the bank holiday weekend coincides with half-term breaks for families across the country.

The e-gates failure is yet another setback for passengers at Heathrow who were hit dozens of cancellations this week after a British Airways IT systems failure, which saw 175 flights cancelled, causing disruption for travellers on Thursday and Friday.

More than 20,000 passengers were affected by the disruption of the systems failure, with BA saying the “knock-on effect of a technical issue” meant staff were in the wrong location.

Simon Calder, travel correspondent of The Independent, warned that the failure could spread wider disruption beyond the inconvenience to arriving passengers.

“The whole UK Border Force business model – including staffing this weekend – is based on the premise that a large majority of arriving passengers are able to use the eGates. As well as British citizens, EU nationals, Americans, Australians, Japanese and other nationalities can go through them.

“The simple business of checking that a passport is valid, and that it belongs to the traveller presenting themselves, is a transaction that is normally easily and efficiently achieved by eGate technology. With this routine burden removed, UK Border Force officers can spend time on ‘cases of interest’ arriving from abroad.

“But if every arrival has to be checked manually, the processing time increases massively – leading to the very long queues we are seeing.

“Once the flow of arrivals becomes unmanageable in the immigration hall, passengers may need to be kept aboard aircraft – meaning that delays can build up for departing travellers who are unable to board their planes.

“The problem will also affect British border posts in France – at Calais, Dunkirk and the Eurostar terminal at Paris Gare du Nord.”

This is a breaking news story and will continue to be updated.

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