Birmingham Airport security delays and why passengers keep facing queues

Airports across the UK were affected by the issues. This handout photo was issued by Paul Uwagboe of Gatwick Airport at passport control
Airports across the UK were affected by the issues. This handout photo was issued by Paul Uwagboe of Gatwick Airport at passport control -Credit:Copyright remains with handout provider

Birmingham Airport passengers have faced persistent headaches due to persistent security issues - with the latest erupting this week. One traveller reported this week that people were 'fainting as they queued in chaotic' scenes.

Another said the 'security queue was through the terminal building and up the street'. On Tuesday evening (May 7), the Home Office confirmed that a Border Force issue was causing delays at Birmingham Airport, part of a 'nationwide issue' affecting Heathrow, Gatwick, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh and Newcastle airports as well.

Social media was awash with videos and pictures showing lengthy queues. The Home Office announced the following day, May 8, that the problem has been resolved. However, this is not the first time such an incident has occurred, with a similar situation arising in April.

READ MORE: HMRC to hit pet owners with tax bill that millions don't know about

READ MORE: Dog owners rave about affordable treats ideal for training that are 'big hit' with fussy pets

So, why do these problems persist and what measures are being taken to prevent them in the future? Our colleagues at Birmingham Live have been looking into this very question.

The Home Office, which oversees Border Force, confirmed there was a 'nationwide issue due to a problem with the passport eGates last night (May 7)', according to a BBC report. eGates are automated gates that use facial recognition technology to verify a person's identity, allowing them to enter the country without interacting with a Border Force officer.

Across the 15 air and rail ports in the UK, there are more than 270 e-gates available, as per the government's website, which claims they're designed to 'enable quicker travel into the UK'. However, yesterday saw staff reverting to manual checks for security processing due to a national system failure.

Have there been previous nationwide delays at security check-ins?

Just last month a similar disruption occurred, leading to extensive queues at various UK passport control areas. Initially flagged by Edinburgh Airport, the issue extended to Birmingham, Manchester, Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, and Stansted airports.

At that time, the Home Office responded by saying: "On Thursday, April 25, a technical issue affected eGates across the country. The issue was quickly identified and has now been resolved. We have comprehensively reviewed the causes and will ensure this issue does not occur again."

What's the Government's take on the recent airport delays?

Following yesterday's widespread eGate malfunction, the Home Office has confirmed the situation is now under control. An early statement on May 8 from a spokesperson announced that 'eGates at UK airports came back online shortly after midnight'.

He also reassured that 'at no point was border security compromised, and there is no indication of malicious cyber activity.' He noted that the disruptions were due to a 'system network issue' first identified around 7.50pm, resulting in over four hours of complications.

The Home Office has issued an apology to 'travellers caught up in disruption' and expressed gratitude towards 'partners, including airlines for their co-operation and support' amidst the technical difficulties. Despite initial thoughts, it seems the problem wasn't confined to eGates alone. BBC coverage indicates that even Belfast International Airport, which doesn't use eGates, reported issues with Border Force 'systems'.

What's the situation at Birmingham Airport since the issues arose?

It appreared to be business as usual at Birmingham Airport on May 8. Most flights were taking off and landing as scheduled, a trend reflected across UK airports.

How is Birmingham Airport tackling security delay concerns?

Birmingham Airport is 'building for its future', working on a new security search area designed to be 'streamlined, speedier and simpler'. Staff acknowledge that the transition period may cause 'confusion for customers', leading to changes in 'queuing and walking routes'.

A spokesperson for Birmingham Airport shared with BirminghamLive: "Birmingham Airport has invested £60m in a new security hall and scanning equipment. This major construction project, which has been ongoing for 18 months, is building for our future with the construction of a new simpler and streamlined security area for our customers.

"The building works within the terminal mean we have lost areas where customers would previously have queued for security, mainly our upstairs space. This means that the majority of our security queuing area is now downstairs."

What can I do to avoid unnecessary delays and missed flights?

The spokesperson said: "This transition from our existing security to our new security area can be confusing. Here is the best travel advice for customers travelling out of Birmingham Airport over the next few months:

  • Zone A for Jet2

  • Zone D for Emirates

  • Zones B and C for all other airlines

"Customers travelling can find all this information on our website," the Birmingham Airport spokesperson said.

Get daily headlines and breaking news emailed to you - it’s FREE