Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways parent company, IAG, has expressed his confidence that the UK government has taken control of the problem of long and time-consuming immigration queues at Heathrow Airport.
In recent weeks it has not been uncommon for passengers arriving at the airport to experience waiting times of two hours at the UK Border Control desks. However, Walsh said that he now believes that the British government has taken steps to solve the problem.
Walsh said, ‘We have seen very significant improvement in the performance of immigration at Heathrow and that needs to continue. I’m pretty confident the government will get control of it. The prime minister has got personally involved and that gives us a lot more confidence than if [immigration minister] Damian Green had just been dealing with it. But the government should be ashamed that it tried to convince people that the problem was not as bad as it was.’
The IAG boss was also optimistic about the programme in place for dealing with increased traffic during the Olympic Games, which he described as, ‘pretty robust,’ but was more concerned about the post-game scenario, when staffing levels are once again reduced.
Walsh also spoke out against any suggestion that airlines should pay extra fees to help counter the delays at immigration, other than the possibility of premium customers paying for an additional service to speed them through the formalities.
He said, ‘I see no reason why airlines should have to bear any additional cost over what the Home Office already provides. The cost per person of going through immigration is GBP3.20. They should have sufficient resource within this existing cost if they target these resources on the known flows of traffic.’