Families struggled through three-hour queues at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday after a weekend of chaos caused by a shortage of Border Force officials.
Parents with children under 12, unable to use the eGates, said they were directed to a designated queue for families described on social media as a holding pen.
One passenger complained of “zero immigration officers working the families line” at Terminal 3 amid “a sea of kids, hot and tired.”
Others described hundreds of people queueing at Terminal 2 where only a third of desks were open and families were served by only one border control officer.
Manon Dave, 36, said his wife Trusha, 34, and their 20-month-old son stood for three hours in the family queue after their Toronto flight landed at 8.30am.
He told the Evening Standard: “Trusha feels extremely exhausted. Our time in line for immigration was half of our overall flight time from Toronto to London.
“Our son, Jaian, was very tired and cranky in line, as were all the children.
— Bo Davis (@BRDJr) August 31, 2021
“They are both British citizens and were asked to join the ‘families’ line, for which there was only one desk open for the majority of the three hours.”
Another passenger criticised the “shameful queue for families” which he described as a “Covid breeding ground.”
The father, who suffered a heart attack in April, said that he and his son were thirsty, in need of food and a place to sit down after arriving from Athens.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, he added: “The fact that families suffer while adults get through is abhorrent.
“They can’t even be bothered to to tell us how long it will take.”
“I already cancelled taxi which was waiting and wasted £30.”
Heathrow Airport replied to passengers directly on Twitter and explained that Border Force “is currently experiencing some delays.”
This was due to additional spot checks to ensure passenger compliance with the UK Government’s latest entry requirements, the airport added.
It comes after some travellers faced four-hour queues at the airport during the bank holiday weekend.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public and we will never compromise on security, and on ensuring passengers are compliant with the current health measures, which means passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border.
“The rollout of upgrades to our eGates to automate checks for health requirements is ongoing, with many eGates already in operation and more to be added over the coming months to increase automated checks on passengers at airports.
“However, for safeguarding reasons families with children under the age of 12 are not permitted to use the eGates. Where there are high volumes of families with young children, such as over the summer holidays, Border Force may dynamically deploy resources to frontline desks instead and we continue to flexibly deploy our staff to make the process as smooth as possible.”