Heathrow Airport has defended its passenger safety system following reports of quarter-mile queues and green list arrivals mixing with those arriving from amber and red destinations.
The airport said it has had a dedicated arrivals facility for red list passengers arriving on direct flights since June 1, after passengers vented their frustrations over the past week.
Passenger Tom Kibasi, deputy chair of an NHS mental health trust, estimated 2,000 people were waiting in a line that stretched “the full length of Heathrow Terminal 5.”
Heathrow admitted on Twitter that “waiting times at the border have on occasion been unacceptable”.
A spokesperson told the Standard the system had “been designed with the government and has several layers of protection to keep passengers and colleagues safe,” a Heathrow spokesperson said.
Those layers include mandatory negative Covid tests for all international arrivals, mandatory face masks, social distancing where possible, and “enhanced cleaning regimes and ventilation in immigration halls”.
Queues have also been blamed on problems with a new security database system.
The Home Office’s Border Crossing system aims to improve security, increase efficiency and provide a better experience for travellers.
But it was said to repeatedly break down over the past week with passengers being rejected at the eGates of Heathrow arrivals halls.
Immigration officers were forced to check in passengers manually leading to further delays, reports add.
The Home Office said it was in the process of upgrading eGates so that they can also check passengers’ health requirements. This work would continue throughout the summer.
A spokesperson added: “Border Force works hard to ensure it has the right level of resources to check that passengers are compliant with our border health measures and to maintain border security as travel continues to open.
“We know the valuable role eGates play in speeding up passenger journeys while maintaining security.”