Earlier this week, Alex Cruz of British Airways (and ill-fitting hiz vis jacket fame), wrote an article in The Times about how wait times for immigration into the United Kingdom.
There are proposal for a “UK only” line to speed up immigration at the airports – which went down badly with Mr Cruz according to press reports.
This has been discussed by the UK Airport Operators Association, who in early July released research indicating that Britons expect UK and EEA passport holders to wait no more than 12 minutes at passport control in airports. They find 25 minutes an acceptable wait time for non-EEA citizens. In reality, the UK Border force target tines are 25 minutes wait (95% of the time) for UK and EEA citizens and 45 minutes for citizens of all other nationalities.
Mr Cruz noted that whilst 45 minutes was the time expected, there were occasions where passengers were waiting for two hours. EEA passengers were waiting for up to an hour to be cleared.
With the UK Border Force sitting on its hands stating they would not compromise the essential checks, there are a lot of people sat in the middle.
And its you and me – the passenger.
I’ve had positive and negative experiences at the UK Border, in some cases – breezing through passport control. In other occasions, I’ve been stuck in the queue waiting to be processed.
Whilst the UK Border force seems to think that ePassport machines are the universal soultion for this, this has major issues in itself.
Firstly, going through Heathrow, I’ve noticed that not all the machines on at any time. It’s just a selection of them. And by relying on ePassport machines, the amount of desks for UK/EEA citizens has been cut back hard. For those who don’t want to use ePassport gates, or can’t (such as families, children under 18) – the queuing time increases.
FastTrack passports clearance – I hate to say – works poorlyy. I’ve used FastTrack once or twice, and found it to be slower than the ePassport queues.
And the non-EEA queues are hampered by one thing – a lack of manpower at desks. It seems that the UK Border force are continually in shock that people want to visit the UK.
What could be done? Well, the obvious thing is to add more manpower. That’s a very blunt instrument though.
There’s more that can be done such as as expand trusted traveller schemes (so that passengers can use the ePassport gates… if the things are switched on).
But if the UK Border Agency is just going to sit on their hands and do nothing – expect the pain of entering through a major hub (or even a no major hub) to continue as inadequate resources and tools are deployed to welcome passengers to the United Kingdom.
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