Posted 16 July 2012
Heathrow passport control queues unacceptable, says BAA
BAA, the airport operator, tells the Home Office to tackle problem as Keith Vaz makes snap visit less than three weeks before the Olympic Games
Passport queues at Heathrow have been "unacceptably long" during peak periods in the last few days, the airport operator has told Home Office ministers. "The Home Office should be delivering a good experience for regular passengers as well as Olympic visitors," said BAA on Monday.
Its official complaint followed a snap 7am visit to Heathrow on Monday by Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons home affairs committee. He said he was appalled to discover immigration queues of more than an hour for non-EU passengers at Terminal 4 and that half the passport desks were closed. Vaz's claims of fresh delays triggered a row with the Home Office and BAA, which insisted that the passport desks were properly staffed and the longest queue was less than an hour. Official BAA figures put the longest wait for non-EU passport holders at Heathrow at 56 minutes. A Border Force spokesperson said: "Keith Vaz is incorrect. Queues at Terminal 4 remained under an hour at all times. Staff were quickly redeployed and more than 80% of desks were open to process passengers as quickly as possible."
The row followed the disclosure of internal BAA papers showing that the 45-minute target for non-EU passengers was repeatedly missed during June, with the longest wait at 121 minutes. Vaz tweeted from Heathrow: “Just left T4. Appalled by immigration queues. People stacked in corridors.” He later said: "It is now two months since the immigration minister promised additional resources and better management. The worst aspect was that half of the immigration desks were simply not opened, even though the Border Force had prior knowledge of all flight arrivals.