The British Air Transport Association (BATA), an association of 10 UK-based major airlines and 13 small airlines, has warned the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, of impending grid-lock during Easter travel at most major UK airports.
In a letter to May, the association cited probable chaos at the airports during the Easter holidays, due to an acute shortage of border control staff and heightened border security. The association is sceptical that airports may suffer gridlock from long queues at passport control counters, leading to overcrowding and subsequent flight delays.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA), the border control agency for the UK government and a part of the Home Office, has, in recent times, shortened its task force by around 25 percent. Last year during the peak flying season, the UKBA allegedly took the controversial decision of relaxing security checks to relieve passenger congestions at the desks. As a direct result, this year the passenger checks will be stringent, leading to slower movements in queues, warns BATA.
A UKBA spokesperson said, ‘We’re working with airlines to ensure security is maintained and disruption is minimised. We always aim to keep disruption to a minimum and employ staff flexibility, but also maintain security. There is no evidence that there is going to be disruption. Carrying out full checks at airports help us stop threats from terrorists, criminals and others who want to harm the UK, and make sure that only those with the right to enter the UK can do so.’
The BATA members, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, bmi British Midland and easyJet, have endorsed the letter sent to the Home Office, voicing their concerns at the staff shortage at UKBA. In a separate memo to the Home Office, Virgin Atlantic too has expressed its displeasure at the current state of affairs, which the airline perceives may cause gridlock of the systems at various airports.
The message is that passengers flying in or out of UK this Easter should be prepared for long queues, short tempers and delayed flights.