Heathrow airport queues: ‘What’s the hurry? Can you be late for quarantine?’

David Ellis
·2-min read
Passengers queue at Heathrow (PA Wire)
Passengers queue at Heathrow (PA Wire)

Good old British inefficiency: in the shakiest of times, it’s nice to know some solid ground. Travellers landing into Heathrow are reportedly queuing at the border for as long as six hours while their Covid forms are processed, a situation the airport’s chief solutions officer Chris Garton dubbed “untenable”. Flying in from Italy, my girlfriend experienced things first-hand on Friday: getting past an official took all of a minute, but it came after a three-hour wait.

“What’s happened is a whole host of new checks, 100 per cent checking of everybody, has been introduced and that obviously has put a tremendous burden on the officers who work at the border,” Garton complained to the Transport Select Committee. Quite right, it seems a bit rich to expect the borders to pitch in and take this pandemic malarkey seriously.

Garton even had to bring in the police to help tell the troublemakers who’ve forgotten queuing is a national pastime to pull themselves together. Not that he’s happy about it, wondering why the Home Office hasn’t provided the airport with more border staff. Think I’m with the Home Office on this. But then, I don’t really see the problem. What’s the hurry? Can you be late for quarantine?

My capacity for sympathy for the border control officers is limited, too. Granted, rarely do I look at those sighing over malfunctioning e-gates and feel reassured that it’s this lot who are the country’s first line of defence, but I struggle to believe scanning a few extra forms is that much of a burden. It’s not like the planes are heaving with families nipping back from an Easter break.

Perhaps I’m just bored of the pandemic buggering things up. I’m even feeling faintly nostalgic for those months when the question of whether an extra runway was concreted at Heathrow or Gatwick was thrust upon the public as a matter of life or death. Or maybe I’m just relieved by the borders being manned by disorganised moaners. Those three hours my girlfriend spent in the queue? Such a help; just enough time for me to clean the flat.

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