Virgin Atlantic and British Airways calls for action to reduce immigration queues at London Heathrow

victoria@aviationnews-online.com
By victoria@aviationnews-online.com August 13, 2018 14:19

Virgin Atlantic and British Airways calls for action to reduce immigration queues at London Heathrow

Two of the largest UK airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have independently called on the government to improve waiting times at the border at London Heathrow airport. During this summer, international visitors were reporting waiting times of more than two hours. The rise in demand for visitors to the UK coupled with a reduced UK Border Force was blamed for the delays.

Virgin Atlantic said that US passenger numbers increased by 20% this year, and has called for urgent action to reduce the waiting times.

Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said: “This summer significant queues at Border Control mean that thousands of visitors have faced two hour queues to get their passports checked, leaving them frustrated before they’ve even started their trip. At Virgin Atlantic we’re doing our bit to try and help our international customers –providing extra staff, as well as drinks and snacks for the queue – but only the Border Force can resolve these unacceptable queue times and they must take action.

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz wrote to the Times newspaper to express his dismay at the two-hour immigration lines, which he says are now the “norm” for many non-European travellers at Heathrow.

Cruz said that one proposal being discussed by the UK government was to consider fast track lanes for UK passport holders only without any proposal for solving other delays sends a poor message for a country trying to prove it was open for business as it prepares to leave the European Union. Cruz described the immigration situation at Heathrow as a “farce,” calling it worse than any other European airport. “What kind of message does this send, as we try to build links outside the EU?”

Currently, the UK Border Force has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to process at least 95% of non-EEA passengers, such as those from the US or China, through immigration within 45 minutes. In July there was only one day when this target was met, and the longest queue time occurred on 6th July when non EEA visitors spent up to two hours 36 minutes waiting in immigration queues.

In response to the letter sent by Cruz, the Home Office said: “We understand the frustration for those who have experienced longer waits and remain fully committed to working with our partners to reduce waiting times as far as is possible. At the same time, we will not compromise the essential checks we carry out at the border, which keep our country safe.”

victoria@aviationnews-online.com
By victoria@aviationnews-online.com August 13, 2018 14:19