Pilots’ union BALPA has demanded a round table discussion with key members of the Government over customs and security delays at Heathrow airport.
The union said it was wrong for the Home Office to criticise its own Border Force for the delays and said the Government needed to ‘sit down with BALPA and other travel industry unions and trade bodies to find a practical, workable way forward’.
Waits of up to five hours over the past few days, which have been widely reported, were unacceptable, the Home Office said.
A spokesperson said: “This is the busiest weekend of the year for returning passengers, with particularly high numbers of families with children under the age of 12, who cannot use e-gates. Border Force is rapidly reviewing its rosters and capacity and flexibly deploying our staff across the airport to improve waiting times.
“We are working very closely with Heathrow airport and its airlines and we are all committed to making sure all passengers can have a safe and hassle-free journey.”
Heathrow also said the queue times were ‘unacceptable’, blaming ‘too few Border Force officers on duty’.
“Border Force were aware of the extra demand from families and we are very disappointed that they did not provide sufficient resource.
“We have additional Heathrow colleagues to support in managing queues and to hand out passenger welfare including water but we need every immigration desk to be staffed at peak times.
“We have escalated this with Border Force and expect them to provide a better service over the remainder of the weekend.”
But BALPA said the Government’s ‘shameless inability to implement an efficient border system is shocking’.
The union added: “As the Government is clearly incapable of effectively regulating international travel, BALPA is now demanding a round table discussion with the Transport Secretary, Home Secretary, Chancellor and Prime Minister.
“Five-hour queues at the border are not the fault of Border Force staff on duty. They are the fault of the Government’s shambolic border rules with wholly overblown and complex requirements for testing and quarantine.
“These are then made more difficult by complex traffic light systems and a plethora of private sector, rip off, unregulated testing companies.
“The Government needs to face up to its inadequacies, demonstrated repeatedly by events on the ground, and sit down with BALPA and other travel industry unions and trade bodies to find a practical, workable way forward.”