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Heathrow meltdown continues as passengers wait for HOURS

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The queueing chaos at Heathrow airport continued overnight, with incensed British holidaymakers complaining of the risk of spreading Covid as hundreds of passengers were rammed into small hallways and forced to queue for up to five hours. 

Images on Twitter show huge lines of people packed together tightly – apparently without access to water, ventilation or toilets – while they queued for several hours to pass through immigration on yet another day of mayhem at Terminal 5.

It has been claimed that a male holidaymaker fainted while standing in line for passport control as pregnant women, pensioners and young children were made to walk long distances with apparently no shuttles available and no social distancing.

Astonishingly, Heathrow yesterday admitted that they have no idea how long it will take passengers to pass through immigration. The border chaos has been compounded by the fact families with children aged under 12 can’t use the e-gates.

Responding to criticism, the airport tweeted: ‘Whilst we do not have exact figures out how long queues can take our teams in the terminals are on hand to support where possible and we are working with Border Force to reduce delays as soon as possible.’ 

In a statement, Heathrow blamed ‘unacceptable queueing times in immigration’ on ‘too few Border Force officers on duty’. A spokeswoman said the Home Office ‘were aware of the extra demand’ and are ‘disappointed’ they didn’t 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,’ the spokeswoman added. 

The Home Office, which has so far taken an unapologetic stance and have blamed understaffing for the travel mayhem, has been approached for further comment. 

Tory MPs have joined a growing backlash against the border chaos overseen by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Transport Secretary Priti Patel, while industry experts warn the huge queues are damaging Britain’s reputation as a hub for global travel.

Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency travel firm, told MailOnline that Border Force should have known this is one of the busiest weekends for travel back into Britain after the summer period and August bank holiday week, and urged Miss Patel to ‘get a grip’.

He accused the Government of ‘incompetence’ and ‘making life so hard for those airlines who have experienced months of shutdown and are now trying to make travel as Covid-safe and seamless as possible for holidaymakers who frankly just want a break’.

Travel experts fear images of mismanagement at Heathrow risks putting off future visitors to the country, whose economy lies in tatters after months of brutal Covid restrictions including the shutdown of hospitality and the work from home diktat. 

The queueing chaos at Heathrow airport continued overnight, with incensed British holidaymakers complained of the risk of spreading Covid as hundreds of passengers were rammed into small hallways and forced to queue for up to five hours

The queueing chaos at Heathrow airport continued overnight, with incensed British holidaymakers complained of the risk of spreading Covid as hundreds of passengers were rammed into small hallways and forced to queue for up to five hours

Images on Twitter show huge lines of people packed together tightly - apparently without access to water, ventilation or toilets - while they queued for several hours to pass through immigration on yet another day of mayhem at Terminal 5

Images on Twitter show huge lines of people packed together tightly – apparently without access to water, ventilation or toilets – while they queued for several hours to pass through immigration on yet another day of mayhem at Terminal 5

It has been claimed that a male holidaymaker fainted while standing in line for passport control while pregnant women, pensioners and young children were made to walk long distances with no shuttles available and no social distancing possible

It has been claimed that a male holidaymaker fainted while standing in line for passport control while pregnant women, pensioners and young children were made to walk long distances with no shuttles available and no social distancing possible

A busy Heathrow Airport on Saturday morning as passengers are experiencing long delays on arrival

A busy Heathrow Airport on Saturday morning as passengers are experiencing long delays on arrival

Astonishingly, Heathrow yesterday admitted that they have no idea how long it will take passengers to pass through immigration. The chaos has been compounded by the fact families with children aged under 12 can't use the e-gates

Astonishingly, Heathrow yesterday admitted that they have no idea how long it will take passengers to pass through immigration. The chaos has been compounded by the fact families with children aged under 12 can’t use the e-gates

Taking to Twitter, one passenger said: '@UKBorder why aren't the passport check desks fully staffed at Heathrow airport today? @HeathrowAirport why aren't you ensuring the well-being of passengers arriving by providing drinking water for those in the nearly 2 hour long queue?'

 Taking to Twitter, one passenger said: ‘@UKBorder why aren’t the passport check desks fully staffed at Heathrow airport today? @HeathrowAirport why aren’t you ensuring the well-being of passengers arriving by providing drinking water for those in the nearly 2 hour long queue?’

Home Secretary Priti Patel

Grant Shapps

Under pressure: Home Secretary Priti Patel – who oversees border force – and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary 

Heathrow’s summer of queuing chaos: So when WILL the government get a grip? 

May 17 – Passengers flying into the UK faced ‘bedlam’ at the border with some facing a three hour wait at the Heathrow passport gates. Travellers told MailOnline how they were ‘terrified of catching Covid’ while being crammed into the airport’s border hall this morning.

July 12 – Passengers said they had ‘never seen anything like’ the queues at Heathrow Terminal 5 as officials blamed the scenes on staff having to self-isolate. A passenger said: ‘Total chaos at security at Heathrow airport T5 this morning. Never seen anything like it.’ 

July 20 – 90-minute queues were seen at arrivals after the government failed to update Passenger Locator Forms ahead of its ‘Freedom Day’ rule changes – resulting in double-jabbed Britons being rejected at e-gates.  

August 2 – Queues of passengers stretched the entire length of Terminal 5. Officials again blamed staff having to self-isolate. A spokesman quoted figures showing that one in four Border Force guards were reported to be off sick with Covid or self-isolating. 

29 – Three-hour waits were reported at passport control. A day later the Home Office risked fury as it said passengers ‘need to accept’ the risk of delays at peak times. 

30 – One passenger describes the immigration process in Terminal 2 as ‘incompetent and ridiculous’, adding that he was forced to wait for more than five hours with ‘no water, no bathroom’

31 – One traveller wrote on Twitter that a queue for families with children had lasted three hours.

September 1 –  Pictures and video from around midday showed long snaking lines of travellers packed closely together with no social distancing, as some aired themselves with leaflets in an attempt to stay cool. 

2 – Yet more chaos with waits of up to four hours. 

Taking to Twitter, one passenger said: ‘@UKBorder why aren’t the passport check desks fully staffed at Heathrow airport today? @HeathrowAirport why aren’t you ensuring the well-being of passengers arriving by providing drinking water for those in the nearly 2 hour long queue?’ 

Another tweeted: ‘@pritipatel @grantshapps Why were there long queues on the 3 Sep 21 at Heathrow? We landed at 21:35 and left the airport after midnight due to long queues at immigration. Why were families expected to queue for over 2 hours when single passengers could use the e-gates?’

A third person posted: ‘Friends arriving at @HeathrowAirport this week telling me the situation is beyond a joke. Queues beyond 2 hours at passport control & people handing out water & snacks. Why can’t these people work at immigration? What’s going on? #Heathrow I’m not buying covid as an excuse’.

Tweeting overnight, one holidaymaker said: ‘Currently mingling with 1000s of others, 1 hour in, plenty to go. Why bother with green, Amber, red tiers when your [sic] all put together on arrival?’

Another raged: ‘Border Force, embarrassing scenes at LHR T5 this evening with massive snaking queues for families. Incompetent border force staff refused to redeploy staff when asked to by T5 staff #heathrow @pritipatel’.

‘I came prepared Heathrow. Shame you wasn’t ready for your customers. Passport control was a mess, only a few of your machines working. The staff manning them didn’t know what was going on. Oh, and I arrived just under 2 hours ago and still no updates from your team,’ another tweeted. 

Mr Charles told MailOnline: ‘First of all, this weekend is one of the busiest weekends for travel into the UK after that long summer break and the week following the August bank holiday. Border Force either know that or they don’t. They should have been planning for an increase in passengers coming through Heathrow, and it’s ridiculous that this has been allowed to happen yet again.

‘What kind of message does this send to the world about Britain? How does it look to other countries who are looking at those pictures and videos of big queues at Heathrow? Well I’ll tell you. It sends the message that Britain is not fit for purpose.

‘There’s certainly incompetence and mismanagement. But it does seem that the Government are trying to make international travel as difficult as possible for British holidaymakers wanting to get away. I don’t think they don’t want people to leave this country because they’re thinking about Covid numbers and keeping them down at whatever cost.

‘This is not a government famous for trying to reopen global travel. It has put the brakes on overseas travel throughout this pandemic, despite the industry clamouring for a proper reopening. Add the traffic light system and the testing regime to chaos at Heathrow, and it has the effect of putting people off from flying anywhere. And it’s working.’ 

Images taken on Friday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK, in scenes that are now wearily familiar due to Border Force failing to tackle an issue that has been going on all summer.  One furious traveller told MailOnline: ‘The queues have been three to five hours long for immigration.

‘I landed in Terminal 5 and the transit train wasn’t working so we had to walk in a tunnel for about 20 minutes with no ventilation. We’ve been in a queue for two to three hours already, but some have been told the wait is up to five hours – with families and babies stuck in the queue.’

Another person said: ‘There are massive queues at Terminal 5 again.

Fire engines flood Gatwick runway after hydraulics fluid spills from EasyJet plane  

Fire engines flooded the runway at Gatwick Airport this afternoon after an EasyJet plane suffered a hydraulics problem. 

The captain told passengers hydraulics fluid had spilled onto the runway and needed to be hosed off. This left passengers on the jet, from Split in Croatia, stranded onboard while they waited for the operation to finish. 

‘It sounded like the wheels wouldn’t come down,’ a passenger told MailOnline. ‘As soon as we landed the plane came to a halt on the runway and loads of fire engines appeared.’ 

The passenger later added: ‘We weren’t stranded on there long… but the noise as they tried to put the wheels down when we came into land was alarming. It took a lot longer than normal and was really laboured and screechy.’ 

The extent of the disruption to other flights is not yet clear. 

Gatwick Airport said: ‘Gatwick’s runway was temporarily unavailable between 1530 and 1543 while the runway was inspected and treated following a small leak of hydraulic fluid from an easyJet aircraft – EZYA396 from Spilt. The runway became available again shortly after and flights are operating as normal.’ 

A picture taken by a passenger showed a fire engine next to the plane as it hosed hydraulic fluid off the runway

A picture taken by a passenger showed a fire engine next to the plane as it hosed hydraulic fluid off the runway 

‘Really young children and old people had to walk the full walkway as shuttle trains are out of service, and there are no toilets between the gates and passport control. No water. No social distancing. Supposedly the UK is a first world country, but not by this measure.

‘Absolute incompetence from UK border force and Heathrow airport. Run an airport? They don’t have enough competence and intelligence to run a bath.’ 

Yesterday, ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith called the scenes at arrivals ‘madness’, telling MailOnline: ‘We are going to achieve the worst of all worlds by having people close together who may have Covid. The whole thing is chaotic and we still haven’t fully opened up yet. We don’t seem to have a plan for how we are going to manage that.

‘If it carries on like this Heathrow will cease to be a hub airport and Britain will be left in the backwash as an irrelevant country. Having already jabbed such a large percentage of the population we have to get on with things.’   

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, asked: ‘What the hell is going on? This is totally unacceptable and I find it deeply embarrassing that the United Kingdom in the 21st century cannot get people into Britain faster than this.’   

The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week. But the Home Office – which has repeatedly pinned the problem on understaffing – has maintained an unapologetic stance despite widespread fury from the public and senior travel industry figures.  

One passenger tweeted: ‘Chaos at Heathrow airport Terminal 4. Four hrs waiting to go through immigration. Families with children, pregnant ladies & old folks everyone had to wait. Is that human?’ 

A second wrote: ‘Passport control at Terminal 5: Empty e-gates. Yet families with kids under 12 have to queue for 2 hours. Two desks open to UK citizens, kids and babies are screaming #disgrace.’ 

The Home Office disputed this figure, with a spokesman citing Border Force statistics that the lengthiest queue at Terminal 5 yesterday was 1 hour 15 mins.

Under-12 can’t use e-gates due to limitations with the facial recognition technology, meaning families with young children have to use manned desks.  

Mr Duncan-Smith urged the government to come up with a new solution to the chaos, saying Border Force could remove the need to spend time processing Covid paperwork by introducing sniffer dogs trained to detect Covid. 

‘The NHS has already done phase one of a trial for medical detection dogs, which has shown they are already almost at the level of a PCR test when it comes to Covid,’ he said. 

‘That would indicate who has it immediately, at which point they can be taken out of the queue and sent for a full PCR. But the NHS, having done the first phase of the trial, has now refused point blank to do the second phase at airports. We are seeing these queues now but this trial has been completed months ago.

‘They could easily by now have dogs deployed at airports very accurately detecting Covid but the NSH has failed to complete the trial.’ 

North Wiltshire MP James Gray called for Border Force officials to be hauled in front of a select committee. He told MailOnline: ‘People coming into the country who aren’t British must have had the most appalling experience. Someone needs to get a grip of this. 

‘I’d like to know how many people Border Force has altogether, how many are self-isolating and how many people are on the rota at peak times? People know when flights are coming in so it can’t be acceptable that there are only two guards on duty.

‘We need to get Border Force in front of the select committee and the government to do a review of Border Force per se. And the ridiculous carry on with e-gates is farcical. E-gates have been around now for years. Why haven’t we sorted it?’  

Pictures taken yesterday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK

Meanwhile, e-gates were hardly used

Images on Twitter show huge lines of people packed together tightly – apparently without access to water, ventilation or toilets – while they queued for several hours to pass through immigration on yet another day of mayhem at Terminal 5 

An image taken by a second passenger yesterday. The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week

An image taken by a second passenger yesterday. The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter. The Home Office disputed first figure, with a spokesman citing Border Force statistics that the lengthiest queue at Terminal 5 yesterday was 1 hour 15 mins

Departures at Heathrow Terminal 2 this morning, where there were large queues for the check-in desks

Departures at Heathrow Terminal 2 this morning, where there were large queues for the check-in desks

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union.

He tweeted a picture taken two hours into the queuing process, with hundreds of people still in front of him in the line.

On Tuesday, one traveller wrote on Twitter that a queue for families with children had lasted three hours. Another described the wait for families as ‘shameful’, adding that the UK ‘must be the only country which treats families worse than adults’.

On Monday a passenger said the immigration process in Terminal 2 was ‘incompetent, ridiculous’, adding that he was forced to wait for more than five hours with ‘no water, no bathroom’. 

Clive Wratten CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA), described the scenes as ‘very worrying’. He said: ‘As the world continues to open up safely, it is essential that there is enough staff and support at all points of a journey. 

‘The travel experience needs to be as frictionless and consistent as possible to give all travellers the confidence they need to return in large numbers.’ 

There have also been widespread complaints about British Airways operations at Terminal 5 and the management of the airport as whole, with passengers reporting lengthy delays to disembarkation and luggage pick up. Pictured: T2 departures

There have also been widespread complaints about British Airways operations at Terminal 5 and the management of the airport as whole, with passengers reporting lengthy delays to disembarkation and luggage pick up. Pictured: T2 departures

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union

Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, which describes itself as the UK’s leading independent British travel agents, said: ‘From a visitor perspective, arriving into Heathrow is the first impression many will get of the UK – and first impressions matter.’  

The issue has been exacerbated by a shortage of Border Force agents and many going into self-isolation for Covid. But earlier this week a senior Tory MP insisted the issues should have been addressed ‘a long time ago’.

‘This has been a constant problem throughout the pandemic and I appreciate the Home Office may have had difficulties recruiting to the Border Force but that is not a new problem,’ the MP told MailOnline.

‘They should have addressed this a long time ago. It adds to travel uncertainty and it is not good for the travel industry or the travelling public. The Border Force needs to be better organised.’  

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