British Airways has criticised the UK’s Border Force for the “serious inefficiencies” that have caused long queues and “frustrating” delays for passengers at UK airports.
BA has called for measures to be taken to reduce these queues in a submission to the Home Office, which forms part of a government consultation on immigration.
The airline criticised the use of the Border Force’s e-gates at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 with BA claiming that “routinely” only a third of the 29 gates are open, and they are also shut “prematurely” at 11pm every night.
Raghbir Pattar, BA’s director of Heathrow, said: "We recognise some of the steps being taken by Border Force to improve the service they provide to travellers.
“However more focus must be put on operating in the most efficient and flexible way and ensuring that passengers needs are put first.
"It is a constant frustration to us and to our customers that after a long flight they have to stand in queues, sometimes for over an hour, just to get back into the country.
“It is a dreadful welcome for visitors to the UK to be faced with a packed immigration hall and the prospect of a frustrating delay to the start of their holiday or business trip. It adds insult to injury when you're stuck in a queue but can see numerous gates which just aren't being used.
"We wholeheartedly support the essential role the Border Force has to protect the UK but more must be done to prevent these unnecessary delays."
But the Home Office responded in a statement: "Border Force and British Airways have an agreement to close the Terminal 5 E-passport gates at 11pm every evening. In recent months, Border Force has kept the gates open beyond 11pm - often to accommodate passengers arriving on delayed British Airways flights.
"The security of our border is paramount - which is why 100 per cent of scheduled passengers are checked when arriving in the UK. While every effort is made to keep delays for passengers to a minimum, we make no apology for carrying out this important work."