Airport passengers vent anger as Border Force e-gates outage sparks chaos at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted

Passengers have vented their frustration after a “nationwide issue” with Border Force e-gates caused chaos at airports across the country into the early hours of Wednesday.

Images and footage posted on social media showed horrendous queues as passengers waited to have their passports checked at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton.

The Home Office said the issue, which appeared to affect all UK airports, was resolved shortly after midnight on Wednesday.Home Office minister Tom Pursglove apologised for the disruption at airports in the Commons, and said there is no indication of "malicious cyber activity" behind the fault.

Mother Joanna Griffin, who was stuck in a queue at Stansted Airport amid the disruption, told The Mirror: "[There are] loads of children waiting and no one has water or food. It’s a complete disgrace - they never have enough gates for a backup if the computer system fails."

A barrister named only as Chris, from north-west London, told the paper he had been stuck on a BA plane on the Tarmac at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, after arriving from Lisbon.

“I have work in the morning - the crew doesn’t know when they’ll be able to let us off,” he told The Mirror.“We haven't been given any refreshments yet. The toilet taps actually ran out of water, so people have had to use bottled water to wash their hands!"

Sam Morter, 32, who arrived at Heathrow from Sri Lanka, said it was “pandemonium” when he got to passport control at Heathrow’s Terminal 3, where all of the e-gates had blank screens.

“There was a lot of Border Force officials running and scrambling around. Four or five went to man the posts and start processing the UK passports manually,” he said.

“But at the same time, hundreds of passengers started to flood into passport control, so it all of a sudden became chaotic and they couldn’t cope with the number of the people coming in.

“We weren’t given any information. There was no information on the Tannoys or from staff.”

Paul Curievici, from Haslemere in Surrey, landed at Gatwick Airport around 7.30pm on a flight from Lyon and waited in line for almost an hour at passport control.

The 41-year-old said after the e-gates at Gatwick reopened, fast-track passengers continued to be prioritised, which he found “pretty galling”.

There appeared to be knock-on effects for passengers even once the e-gates had reopened, with photos showing some travellers forced to sleep on the floor at Stansted, as they were unable to get transport home.

In a post on X around 2.30am on Wednesday, traveller Laura Howes wrote: “National Express buses are full to the brim, all taxi providers are unavailable. It now costs £200+ to access London by Uber, up from £70 when I checked at midnight.”

Around 3.45am she added: “Hundreds still waiting for transport from Stansted Airport. The next National Express train to London is at 4.30am, there were no available buses after 2.30am.”

She shared video of people lying on the floor of the airport trying to sleep, while another clip later showed a long queue of people, including young children, waiting for travel home outside the airport.

Around 8am, Ms Howes said she was finally home following an ordeal that lasted “over six hours” and included taking two buses and sharing an Uber with three other people.

A Home Office spokesperson said in a statement early on Wednesday: “eGates at UK airports came back online shortly after midnight.

“As soon as engineers detected a wider system network issue at 7.44pm last night, a large scale contingency response was activated within six minutes.”

The Home Office spokesperson also extended apologies to “travellers caught up in disruption” and thanked “partners, including airlines for their co-operation and support” during the outage.

Home Office minister Tom Pursglove told MPs in the Commons: "Investigations determined that the incident was caused by technical issues within the Home Office network.

“Once the fault was identified, officials worked closely with partners to rectify the problem and restore service."

He added: "At this stage, I can assure the House and the wider public that all security checks were maintained throughout. Border security was not compromised at any point and there is no indication of malicious cyber activity. Police access to operational systems was unaffected."

He further stated: "I sincerely apologise for the disruption that occurred. I can assure the House that the Home Secretary and I will be unswerving in our determination to ensure that every possible lesson is learned, to ensure that this does not happen again."

The disruption came after Border Force workers staged a four-day strike at Heathrow in a dispute over working conditions last week.

The union said the workers were protesting against plans to introduce new rosters they claim will see around 250 of them forced out of their jobs at passport control.

BA and Stansted Airport have been approached by The Standard for a comment.