Heathrow Airport is facing massive queues at immigration, creating a nightmare scenario for airlines operating out of the airport, and for arriving passengers.
Earlier, the British Air Transport Association (BATA), an association of 10 UK-based major airlines and 13 small airlines, along with several members of the UK parliament, had warned that visitors to the UK could experience long delays at airport immigration counters that could lead to queues and possible airport gridlock.
Passenger delays at UK airports are likely to escalate with the large numbers of visitors expected during the upcoming 2012 London Olympic Games.
BATA had earlier stated that recent reductions of around 25 percent in the staffing levels of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) task force, the UK government’s border control agency and a part of the Home Office, coupled with stringent security measures, would lead to the slowing down of immigration queues.
To improve the situation, the UKBA, in what seems to be a desperate measure, is planning to rehire retired passport control officers to operate security checkpoints, and will spend £2.5 million on the exercise. The rehired staff will be offered travel expenses and hotel accommodation, on top of an hourly working rate, and will be working from July 2012 onwards, to help tackle the Olympics rush.
The international business community, however, has expressed its dismay at the plight of business travellers, who are routinely delayed at Heathrow and Gatwick airports in London.
Brian Moore, the head of the UK Border Force, in an interview, has said, ‘The vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly. Overwhelmingly we are doing a good job on balancing getting people through whilst making sure the border remains secure. Queues are caused by a number of factors, including incorrect flight manifests or early or late planes, which result in bunching. The important factor is to have staff that are flexibly deployed in the right numbers at the right times and this is what we always try to do.’