UK border queues stretching to hours as airport e-gates fail

·2-min read
Welcome home? the e-gates at Heathrow and other UK airports are now said to be working again  (REUTERS)
Welcome home? the e-gates at Heathrow and other UK airports are now said to be working again (REUTERS)

Travellers arriving at the UK’s main gateways are once again facing long queues – due to an apparent failure of the e-gate system used by UK Border Force.

More than 200 e-gates at airports across the UK normally allows travellers to get through very quickly – verifying their identity and allowing them through in as little as 10 seconds per passenger.

But the database on which they depend appears to have failed for around two hours.

The television presenter Louis Theroux tweeted: “Human logjam at Heathrow – apparently all the e-gates at all the airports are down? That’s what the man just said.”

He posted a picture showing hundreds of arriving travellers stretching back from the passport area at a Heathrow terminal.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Earlier today, a systems failure impacted the e-gates, which are staffed and operated by Border Force.

“This issue, which impacted a number of ports of entry, has since been resolved and the e-gates at Heathrow are back up and running again.

“Our teams remain on hand and are working with Border Force to monitor the situation, and to get passengers on their way as quickly as possible.”

Unlike previous Border Force problems at Heathrow, which appeared to be due to a shortage of staff, the systems failure afflicted airports across the UK.

Problems were also reported at Gatwick, Stansted, East Midlands, Manchester and Edinburgh airports.

A spokesman for Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – which also includes Stansted and East Midlands – said: “All three of our airports were impacted this afternoon for a short period time due to an e-gates outage, which has now been resolved.

“We have worked with UK Border Force (UKBF), which manages the immigration process, throughout to ensure passengers were informed and processed as quickly as possible.

“We will continue to support UKBF as they clear the backlog of passengers and appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding.”

The Home Office, which is responsible for UK Border Force, announced that the problems had been resolved. A spokesperson said:

“This afternoon a technical issue affected e-gates at a number of ports. The issue was quickly identified and has now been resolved.

“We have been working hard to minimise disruption, and apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

Four weeks ago, over the August bank holiday in England, extremely long queues were reported at Heathrow. The cause appeared to be a failure to roster enough staff to cover a weekend in which large numbers of under-12s – who cannot use e-gates – were arriving with their families.

The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, has been an increasingly vocal critic of UK Border Force management.

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