Gatwick demands tests are ditched for double-vaccinated passengers to ease queue crisis

Passengers have faced hours-long wait at border control on arrival at UK airports

Bosses at London's Gatwick Airport want to ease the Covid conditions that incoming travellers have to meet. AP
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Travel industry leaders are looking at ways to end delays and reduce queues at UK immigration control.

London's Gatwick Airport, which has been one of the UK airports hardest hit by Covid-19 travel bans, said passengers who have received two vaccinations should not need to be tested again when they arrive.

The travel trade association ABTA said Border Force, the officers responsible for ensuring passengers adhere to immigration rules, needed to focus on the resources it has available and act accordingly.

“It is very important that Border Force has adequate resourcing in place when it knows that there will be larger numbers of passengers arriving whose passports will need to be manually checked,” a spokesman told The National.

“Many passengers arriving in the UK have been able to pass through passport control without significant delay, especially those who are able to use the e-gates.”

He said some of the queues at the weekend could have been lengthened by the number of families returning from holidays before the new school term started on Monday, and that a contributory factor was young children not being allowed to use e-gates.

Long queues have developed at Heathrow, Luton and Manchester airports with Border Force being blamed for the delays at immigration.

Gatwick Airport managers are calling for an end to the rules that double-vaccinated passengers – even those flying in from green countries – have to take a Covid test.

“With vaccination rates across Europe comparable, if not better, than the UK’s, the time has come for testing to be removed altogether for travellers who have been double jabbed,” Gatwick's chief executive Stewart Wingate said.

“Other countries have done this and their aviation sectors are recovering much faster with bookings in Europe recovering twice as fast as in the UK.

“Our continued travel restrictions are out of step with much of Europe and continue to have a real impact on jobs and livelihoods, business and growth opportunities while also keeping friends and family apart.

“Passenger confidence in the UK has been shattered and the UK travel industry urgently needs thrown a lifeline so that we can start to recover properly from the most difficult period in our history.”

The Home Office said the delays were “unacceptable” but defended Border Force’s role in making sure incoming travellers obeyed Covid travel regulations.

Queues have grown as the UK has eased Covid-related restrictions on international travel for tourists, with most holiday destinations on the country's amber list.

Travellers coming from countries with amber status who have been fully vaccinated with inoculations approved and administered in the UK, EU and US do not have to isolate but 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 the country.

The red list means visitors returning to the UK have to quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days at a cost of £2,285 ($3,160) per person.

Updated: September 07, 2021, 12:29 PM