Waiting game: arrivals at Heathrow airport
Waiting game: arrivals at Heathrow airport

Heathrow: most arriving passengers waiting ‘more than two or three hours’

‘The situation is becoming untenable. We’re having to involve police,’ says Chris Garton, Heathrow executive

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 14 April 2021 15:03

Most passengers flying into the UK’s busiest airport face delays of “more than two or three hours”, MPs have been told.

Addressing the Transport Select Committee, Heathrow’s chief solutions officer, Chris Garton, said: “We’ve had queues in excess of two hours and up to six hours over the past few days.”

The airport executive warned that passengers were becoming disruptive as they waited to be interviewed by UK Border Force.

Mr Garton said: “There’s 100 per cent checking.

“Everybody is lumped together to be assessed in terms of their compliance with the paperwork.

“The airport was never built to have so many people held up.”

Heathrow currently has between 10,000 and 15,000 arrivals per day – 10 to 15 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

“We would like to see increased resourcing anyway, but Covid has made things much worse,” Mr Garton said.

“More than half of them are experiencing delays of more than two or three hours.”

“The situation is becoming untenable. We’re beginning to see disruption among arriving passengers. We’re having to involve police officers.

“The solution is to make sure that before you travel to the UK, your entry is assured. Automation is not coming fast enough.”

In January, the home secretary, Priti Patel, was asked about Heathrow queues by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. 

Ms Patel said: “The fact of the matter is those queues materialised because of the compliance checks that Border Force had put in place.”

“I do want to emphasise, and I’d like to thank Heathrow airport because [Ms Cooper] will also be aware that colleagues in Border Force work with the airport operators in terms of social distancing measures at the airport.

“That is a joint piece of work that takes place and all airports take responsibility for their work in how they manage their own flows, and Border Force in particular are there to enforce the checks and, as they are doing now, achieving 100 per cent coverage.”

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