Heathrow queues give 'terrible impression'

2012-04-30 15:02

London - London Mayor Boris Johnson said on Monday the lengthy queues at London Heathrow were giving a "terrible impression" of Britain as a spat between the airport's owner and border officials deepened.

Passport control queues of up to two hours were reported last week at the world's busiest international passenger airport, which will be the main gateway for the 2012 London Olympics that get under way on 27 July.

Johnson wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May to voice his "serious concern" about the difficulties at Heathrow, where Border Force officials and the air hub's owner and operator BAA have rowed over the passport queue problems.

The mayor said the delays gave "a terrible impression of the UK" and it was unfortunate that Britain's main port of entry was "gaining such a poor reputation".

The mayor, who is standing for re-election on Thursday, said he was looking forward to "hearing what measures the Home Office and the UK Border Agency plan to take in order to rectify the situation both for the Games and for usual passenger numbers".

Meanwhile The Daily Telegraph newspaper, citing e-mails, reported that the Border Force tried to stop BAA distributing leaflets at Heathrow telling passengers they "deserved a warmer welcome" and informing them how to complain to the Home Office.

Passengers waited for up to an hour at the airport on Friday to go through border control, while there were two-hour queues on Thursday for passport holders from outside the 30-country European Economic Area.

  • Lynn - 2012-04-30 15:43

    Arriving at Heathrow is a 3rd world experience. I have a British passport which eases the problems somewhat but my wife has a South African passport. Last time we travelled there was just 1 passport control person for non British/EU citizens. For everybody who moans about South Africa let me say that arriving in Jhb or Durban is a much more pleasant experience. Quick and effective controls, friendly staff and when the queue for locals is cleared the staff welcome and call across the visitors in the alien queue

      Stirer - 2012-04-30 17:56

      Didn't you know that you and your spouse can go through the same passport control together at Heathrow - regardless of the passport you are carrying. I have exactly the same situation with my spouse, and we just pick the shortest queue. It's even quicker if you have registered as a frequent traveler. You go through the isometric cornea scanner, where there's hardly ever a queue.

      graham.plessis - 2012-04-30 22:28

      I fly all over the world and Thiefrow/Deathrow (as the some UK locals call it) is the only place I have had my luggage pilfered! The massive queues have given the airport the name "Deathrow"!

      mholthuysen - 2012-05-01 05:39

      Lynn - not only Heathrow. I landed at London City Airport last week - whereas the EU/UK counters were open - there was no one for "us" - so whilst all the European and UK citizens went through we stood there waiting for someone to open a counter. Great welcome... Heathrow I avoid by ALL means - I tried Gatwick as an alternative - and there sometimes one is lucky - but still it is a pain and takes forever.

      Ian - 2012-05-01 10:24

      Lynn, if your wife has a spouse al visa she can go through the same queue as you. I hear what you say about Jhb, it does seem easier, but I put that down to 2 reasons: one, SA does not have the volume that Heathrow does, and 2, nobody is really going to fly into SA to become an illegal immigrant, hence the lax screening process.

  • Bruce - 2012-04-30 15:49

    Good luck the Olympic spectators start arriving!

  • John - 2012-04-30 16:39

    Since the Brits introduced transit visa via Heathrow and on to the EU, we've vowed to avoid flying through London ever again. The long queues at immigration have always been a major put-off! We'll rather fly direct to Paris or Amsterdam! Heck, for the Olympics, fly to Paris and take the Eurostar, anything to avoid Heathrow!

      Syd - 2012-04-30 18:42

      So what about your Shengen visa then?

      mholthuysen - 2012-05-01 05:36

      Syd - the UK does not accept Schengen visa - you have to get a separate UK visa. I have a Schengen residence permit - and yet to get to the island I still fork out R 1200 and wait for ever to get through immigration.

  • nkululeko.j.duma - 2012-04-30 18:29

    hope they sort this out soon cause im flying into heathrow in dec.

  • Smell - 2012-04-30 22:27

    Heathrow is a 3rd world cattle farm. I curse Bin Laden every time I have to land there, or even worse, take off from there.

      John - 2012-05-03 17:39

      Heathrow has always been the pits, it just got worse since 9/11!

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