British Airways chief urges Home Office to prioritise targets on Heathrow queues
Airline complains of long waits despite 200 extra staff Home Office says were deployed to airport
Heathrow missed its target on queue lengths for non-EEA arrivals 8,298 times last year. Credit: PA
British Airways has accused the Home office of failing to prevent huge queues for passport checks at Heathrow airport this summer.
The Home Office said 200 extra staff are being deployed to the airport, but the airline complained that even European Economic Area passport holders had faced waits of up to an hour.
In a letter to The Times, Alex Cruz, British Airways’ chair and chief executive, said: “The Home Office's priority now should be to prevent long queues building up on arrival at Heathrow.
“Two-hour queues are fast becoming the norm for those visiting from outside the European Economic Area, despite a target of no more than a 45-minute wait. Even EEA citizens wait almost an hour.”
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Cruz said it was “unacceptable”, that Nick Jariwalla, head of Border Force at Heathrow, had said “it was unreasonable for his team to be expected to meet their targets”.
He said last year Heathrow missed its target for non-EEA arrivals 8,298 times and had already missed it more than 6,000 times this year.
“Queues are significantly worse than at many other major world airports,” Cruz said. “What kind of message does this send, as we try to build links outside the EU?
“We need more than UK-only lanes to show Britain is open for business, and that includes Sajid Javid taking immediate action to address this border farce once and for all.”
Heathrow’s Border Force targets are that on at least 95% of occasions, EEA arrivals should wait no more than 25 minutes and others 45 minutes.
July’s Border Force performance figures show aggregated across Heathrow’ four terminals the EEA target was hit on 99.1% of occasions but for non-EEA arrivals only 78.9%.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The vast majority of people who arrive at Heathrow get through the border within our service standards.
"But we understand the frustration for those who have experienced longer waits and remain fully committed to working with our partners to reduce waiting times as far as is possible. At the same time, we will not compromise the essential checks we carry out at the border which keep our country safe.
"We are making sure Border Force has the resources it needs and are deploying 200 additional staff at Heathrow over the summer.”
The Home Office said the additional staff would all be in place over the peak August and September months, but some delays were beyond its control, for example when caused by late flights or multiple simultaneous arrivals.
A further 300 border staff are being recruited to deal with Brexit, separately from the national campaign to recruit up to 1,000 more officers.
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