Heathrow Airport has been advised to cut down waiting times at its border checks after new data showed that delays at the hub have led to queues of up to two and a half hours in the last month.
According to figures released by Virgin Atlantic, the Border Force at the UK’s largest airport has failed to meet its target of a 45-minute wait for 95% of visitors coming from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) throughout July.
The British airline said that passengers have been expressing frustration over long wait times, and has called for the Border Force to “resolve these unacceptable queue times”.
Virgin Atlantic’s figures show that the longest immigration queues took place on 6 July, when passengers travelling from a non-EEA country waited in line for up to two hours and 36 minutes.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said that, despite security and safety remaining a top priority, other countries are managing their passport controls better than the UK. He added: “At a time when the UK needs to show the world it is open for business, the government and Border Force need to provide a great first impression for every visitor every time.”
While member states of the EEA and Switzerland can use electronic gates to pass through border checks, visitors from any other country must show their passport to Border Force officials.
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The prolonged process has previously led Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye to ask the Home Office to let passengers from ‘low-risk countries’ – such as the US – use the electronic gates.
A Home Office spokesman 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.”