Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger has joined calls for the government to take action on passport control wait times at Heathrow after it obtained data that showed queues of up to two-and-a-half hours in July.
The data shows the border force at the airport only achieved its target of a 45-minute wait or less for 95 per cent of visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) on one day out of the entire month of July.
The longest wait recorded was on 6 July, when travellers from outside the EEA queued for two hours and 36 minutes.
Virgin Atlantic’s Kreeger joins British Airways boss Alex Cruz in a call for the government to do more to reduce wait times, saying: “At a time when the UK needs to show the world it is open for business, the government and Border Force need to provide a great first impression for every visitor every time.”
In response to growing criticism, the Home Office says it deployed an extra 200 staff to Heathrow for the summer. It claims the majority of passengers made it through passport control within its target time, but BA pointed out that border agents had missed this goal more than 6,000 times already this year versus 8,000 times in the whole of 2017.
Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye has previously asked the Home Office to allow visitors from ‘low-risk countries’ such as the US to be allowed to use electronic passport gates to ease queues for agents.
Kreeger agreed that while security should remain a priority for passport control, more needs to be done and that other countries seem to be managing an increase in passenger traffic better than the UK.
The Home Office had its budget cut by 2.3 per cent last year, but the majority of UK airports are reporting exponential passenger growth. The news comes after MPs approved plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, throwing into question how the government will deal with the increase in capacity at the border.