Long queues at London’s Heathrow airport for fourth consecutive day

Passengers say delays are being caused by immigration checks

Queues of people at the arrivals hall for UK citizens at Heathrow Airport, London. Reuters
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Queues grew again at London’s Heathrow Airport on Wednesday, with the airport blaming immigration officers for the delay.

Reuters shared a video made by the news agency’s London bureau chief, Guy Faulconbridge.

“Reminds me of travelling around the former Soviet Union in the 1990s,” he tweeted, an hour after joining the queue.

“Children playing on the floor of the airport while their parents wait for officials to check some very important documents. Welcome to the United Kingdom.”

Heathrow, which is the UK’s busiest airport, had expected extra traffic this week because England relaxed restrictions on arrivals from seven international destinations.

Last weekend, travellers in terminals 2 and 5 were forced to stand in line for hours as they took Covid tests. They said staffing at immigration appeared short.

Holidaymakers used social media to complain about “brutal” immigration queues and a lack of social distancing.

Similar scenes were reported on Wednesday.

“Border Force is currently experiencing some delays as they conduct additional spot checks to ensure passenger compliance with the UK Government’s latest entry requirements,” a Heathrow representative said.

“Our teams in the terminals are on hand to support where possible and we are working with Border Force to reduce delays as soon as possible. We have already passed this on to the relevant teams who are currently looking into this.

“We assure you we are doing all we can to help passengers be seen to by an officer as soon as possible. Unfortunately, only UK Border/UK GOV officials can operate UK Border desks/E-gates to protect the borders.”

Managers at the airport regularly blame Border Force, the government body that carries out immigration checks at Heathrow, for delays at the airport.

“Unfortunately, we do not have any live or recorded information regarding immigration times as this is independently handled by UK Border Force,” Heathrow said on Wednesday.

The Home Office, which is responsible for Border Force operations, said: “We will never compromise on border security and continue to fulfil our vital function of keeping the border secure while checking that passengers are compliant with the current health measures.

“Our utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public. That means, occasionally, passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border, especially during peak travel periods.”

Under the UK’s traffic light system, arrivals from red-list countries must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £2,285 ($3,151) per person.

Passengers arriving from amber-list countries must isolate for 10 days on arrival in the UK and can be released after day five if they test negative for Covid-19.

Travellers coming from countries with amber status who have been fully immunised with Covid-19 vaccines approved and administered in the UK, EU or US do not have to self-isolate. They must provide a negative Covid-19 test within two days of arrival.

Passengers from countries on the UK’s green list have to take a Covid test before and after arriving in Britain.

Updated: September 01, 2021, 4:43 PM