London Heathrow airport owner BAA Ltd. says the time taken to clear immigration checks at the top European hub has reached unacceptable levels in the past week.
Passengers have had to line up for hours even after the 11- airline British Air Transport Association wrote to the U.K. government last month saying stricter enforcement of passport controls had the potential to cause chaos, BAA said today.
“Immigration waiting times during peak periods at Heathrow recently have been unacceptable and we have called on the Border Force to address the problem as a matter of urgency,” BAA, a unit of Ferrovial SA (FER), said in a statement.
The U.K. Border Force was split from the Border Agency on March 1 with a brief to impose more rigorous checks after a report showed they’d been inconsistent since 2007. A probe was ordered after Brodie Clark quit last year as the agency’s head over allegations that immigration controls had been relaxed to ease congestion at peak periods without ministerial permission.
The Border Force said in an e-emailed statement that a backlog at Heathrow yesterday was prompted by weather disruption which caused several flights to arrive at one time, and that it makes every effort to lessen the impact of any holdups.
“We will not compromise border security but we always aim to keep disruption to a minimum by using our staff flexibly to meet demand,” it said. “Carrying out full checks can mean queues at peak times while we ensure that only people entitled to enter the U.K. can do so.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Steve Rothwell in London at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org