British Airways' CEO has called on the government to take action to reduce queues for passengers at Heathrow’s passport control sooner rather than later.
In a letter to The Times, Cruz labelled Heathrow’s international arrivals a “border farce”, claiming passengers were regularly facing two-hour queues. He said wait times had increased by a quarter last year.
He also said the UK government’s reported plan to introduce British-only lanes at the UK’s airports after Brexit was a diversion and called on home secretary Sajid Javid to take action “immediately” to address wait times.
The Home Office says extra staff were deployed to Heathrow to help reduce queues for the summer. It claims the majority of passengers make it through passport control within the target wait times of 25 minutes for EEA citizens and 45 minutes for those from the rest of the world.
However, Cruz said the airport had missed its target for non-EEA citizens more than 8,000 times last year – 27 per cent up from 2016. The target has already been missed more than 6,000 times this year.
Cruz claimed queues are “significantly worse” than at other major airports, adding: “What kind of message does this send, as we try to build links outside the EU?”
The Times reports that long queues have also been seen at other UK airports, with the Airport Operators’ Association saying wait times of an hour and 30 minutes were recorded at Gatwick and an hour and 12 minutes at Birmingham. It claims automated passport gates are going unused because there aren’t enough staff to monitor them.
The Home Office faced a 2.3 per cent cut to its budget last year, while the majority of UK airports are continuing to report growing passenger numbers.