Heathrow blighted by 'mile-long queues' due to broken e-gates

At least 16 electronic passport scanners at Terminal 5 were out of action for hours on Wednesday

Passengers queueing for passport control after landing at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday morning. Photo: Salman S Chaudhry / Twitter
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Passengers at Heathrow Airport were forced to join “mile-long queues” for passport control on Wednesday morning because electronic gates were not working.

Frustrated travellers vented their anger on Twitter, describing the situation as an “absolute farce” and said at least one person had fainted while being forced to stand in line for an hour.

Dr Glenn Flint was among crowds of people caught up in chaotic scenes after disembarking and posted a photo showing at least 16 e-gates at Terminal 5 that were out of action.

Sally Hardy, meanwhile, tweeted: “Passport queue at Heathrow Terminal 5 is a mile long and has just double backed on itself.”

Another traveller wrote: “Already been an hour. One person has just passed out.”

Jamie Heath demanded answers from the airport over the long queues. “Can you explain the massive queues at immigration please?” he said. “Why do you allow this to happen? The numbers of passengers arriving is known weeks in advance.”

Ben Heyworth described the situation as an “absolute farce” and said: “So the queue for UK passport holders is massive and the rest of the world empty!”

Others shared photos of lengthy queues for passport control at Terminal 3 and said there was a large backup of people waiting to pass through security at Terminal 4.

“Only 3 security posts open in T4,” said a passenger called Peter. “More than double that closed. Incompetent management here.”

Salman Chaudhry described being caught up in "the longest immigration queue I have ever seen".

A spokeswoman for Heathrow told The National there were “minor issues” with Terminal 5’s e-gates early on Wednesday but by mid-morning they had been resolved after staff worked with Border Force, which is part of the Home Office, to find a solution.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “This morning a technical issue affected e-gates at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5. The issue was quickly identified and has been resolved.

"We worked hard to minimise disruption and apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

People wait in a corridor at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday morning to have their passport's checked. Photo: Jamie Heath / Twitter

Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, has in recent weeks experienced numerous issues including a backlog of uncollected luggage.

Photos showing hundreds of suitcases stacked up sparked a barrage of criticism online, after passengers were forced to go home without retrieving their bags. Like other airports, Heathrow’s day-to-day operations have suffered setbacks due to a shortage of staff including baggage handlers.

The aviation regulator told Heathrow it must reduce its passenger charges, as demand for flights continues to rise.

The Civil Aviation Authority on Tuesday said the cap on the west London airport’s average charge per passenger should fall from £30.19 to £26.31 by 2026 — equivalent to nearly a 6 per cent reduction each year when the effects of inflation are removed, the regulator said.

The decision follows a bitter dispute between the airport and airlines about what the cap should be.

Charges are paid by airlines but are generally passed on to passengers in air fares.

Heathrow was given permission to increase its average fees on January 1 from the previous level of £19.60 due to the collapse in passenger numbers caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But the five-year control period from 2022 to 2026 announced by the CAA would see that cap slashed to the lower end of what the regulator had been considering.

The CAA said these are its “final proposals”, with a “final decision” due to be published in the autumn.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye criticised the regulator, saying it “continues to underestimate what it takes to deliver a good passenger service, both in terms of the level of investment and operating costs required and the fair incentive needed for private investors to finance it”.

Heathrow through the years

Updated: June 29, 2022, 2:03 PM