04 Sep ‘Kids screaming and men fainting’: Passengers complain of five-hour lines after arriving at Heathrow | UK News
Heathrow has said it has no idea how long it will take passengers to pass through immigration, amid reports of five-hour queues.
Frustrated travellers from a number of different flights were stuck in large lines, with some posting photographs on social media.
Responding on Twitter on Saturday morning, the airport said: “We are unable to provide information in regards to immigration queue times on behalf of UK Border Force, who operate and manage our immigration halls.”
Hi there, unfortunately, we are unable to provide information in regards to immigration queue times on behalf of UK Border Force, who operate and manage our immigration halls.
— Heathrow Airport (@HeathrowAirport) September 4, 2021
Passenger Noel Braganza, who landed on Friday evening, said it was the “opposite” of COVID secure.
He told Sky News: “It turned out that the queue was for nothing other than immigration. And not even for the COVID document validation. It was just a lot of queues merging into the main immigration control and there was definitely no clear information why we were in a queue.
“The announcements were saying keep your COVID docs ready. So everyone assumed it was COVID documentation.”
He had flown to the UK from Sweden to reunite with family for the first time in two years, with his nephews ending up waiting for him for two hours.
He said the staff were “not helpful at all” and were “just trying to ignore annoyed travellers the best they could”.
Mr Braganza added: “I just wish someone just said ‘Hang in there everyone. This is just because everyone arrived at the same time and we are not very quick processing travellers.'”
One passenger shared an image of queues on Twitter, saying: “Kids crying and screaming and fully grown [men] fainting whilst two people at the booth serving thousands of people queuing up to the runway.”
“Horrendous kettling at #heathrow terminal 5 arrivals [Friday],” another added. “No Border Force. No ventilation. No fire exits. No explanation. Held there for over an hour.”
Delays have been caused in part by the fact families with children under the age of 12 are not permitted to use eGates for “safeguarding reasons”.
The Home Office said in a statement on Friday: “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 eGates to automate checks for health requirements is ongoing, with more to be added in the coming months to increase automated checks on passengers at airports.
The government added: “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.”