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Border Force official checking passportImage copyright
PA

The boss of British Airways has criticised long queues at Heathrow, saying arrivals face two-hour waits to get through border control.

Alex Cruz has written a letter to the Times saying queues at the London airport are “significantly worse” than other major hubs across the world.

The letter is in response to proposals for “UK-only” lines after Brexit.

The Home Office said most of those arriving at Heathrow passed border control within agreed time limits.

These are 25 minutes for EEA (European Economic Area) nationals, and 45 minutes for those coming in from outside that region.

Mr Cruz said UK-only lines were a matter for government, but its priority should be preventing long queues now.

The airline chief executive called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to “take immediate action to address this border farce”.

Mr Cruz said although the target wait for non-EEA travellers coming into Heathrow was 45 minutes, two hours was “fast becoming the norm”.

The BA boss said the target was missed 8,298 times last year and the number had already reached more than 6,000 for 2018.

He also said that those from within the EEA wait almost an hour.


Case study: ‘It should be better prepared’

Adrian Utley, 45, and his family from West Sussex were frustrated by queue times when they arrived at Terminal 5 from Nice last Friday.

“We queued for well over an hour to get through passport control. As we have young children we could not use the e-gates. There were only four border control desks open for a full arrivals hall. After about an hour more desks were opened, but too late.

“I can understand that we can’t take children through e-gates but Heathrow is not catering for families. It is an airport and should be better prepared for scheduled flights coming in.”


‘Immediate action’

“This is unacceptable,” said Mr Cruz – quoting the head of the UK’s Border Force, Nick Jariwalla as saying it was unlikely to change, or for his teams to meet their targets.

He added: “What kind of message does this send as we try to build links outside the EU?

“We need more than UK-only lanes to show Britain is open for business, and that includes Sajid Javid taking immediate action to address this border farce once and for all.”

A Heathrow spokeswoman also said delays at border control were too long.

“Heathrow is Britain’s front door and it should be welcoming, as well as secure. It takes far too long for low-risk passengers who have a right to be here to get through the border, which is unacceptable,” the spokeswoman said.

“We are calling on the home secretary to allow low-risk passengers from non-EU countries such as the US and Canada to use e-gates, in the same way as our EU friends can.”

No compromise on safety

A Home Office spokeswoman said from January to June 2018, more than 95% of people arriving at Heathrow passed border control within the agreed time limits.

However, she added: “We understand the frustration for those who have experienced longer waits and remain fully committed to working with our partners to reduce waiting times as far as is possible.

“At the same time, we will not compromise the essential checks we carry out at the border which keep our country safe.

“We are making sure Border Force has the resources it needs and are deploying 200 additional staff at Heathrow over the summer.”

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