Traveltek

Published on Monday, August 13, 2018

Virgin calls for action as Heathrow queues top 2.5 hours



Virgin Atlantic has joined British Airways in calling for Border Force to cut immigration queues at Heathrow after new data revealed passengers were left waiting for more than two and a half hours last month.



On 30 out of 31 days in July, Border Force missed its target of a maximum 45-minute wait for 95% of visitors from outside the European Economic Area.



According to the data, the longest immigration queues were on July 6 when passengers from outside the EEA had to wait for up to two hours and 36 minutes.



Virgin, which obtained the data, said that while safety and security must be the priority, other countries were managing their borders better than the UK.





The airline said recent high-profile events such as the Royal Wedding and the favourable exchange rate have brought more visitors to the UK. This, coupled with an under-resourced Border Force, is to blame for the excessively long queue times at immigration, it added.




Virgin alone has seen passengers from the US shoot up by 20%. It has set up a 'greet and treat' service for customers arriving on its 23 flights a day into Heathrow, providing water and snacks to try to improve the experience.



Virgin CEO Craig Kreeger, pictured, said: "This summer significant queues at Border Control mean that thousands of visitors have faced two hour queues to get their passports checked, leaving them frustrated before they've even started their trip. At Virgin Atlantic we're doing our bit to try and help our international customers - providing extra staff, as well as drinks and snacks for the queue - but only the Border Force can resolve these unacceptable queue times and they must take action.


 



"We all agree that security and safety at our airports is vital and remains our top priority, but other countries are managing their borders more effectively. 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."



British Airways boss Alex Cruz last week called for urgent action to tackle immigration queues at Heathrow. In a letter to The Times, he said the targets for processing EEA nationals within 25 minutes and visitors from elsewhere within 45 minutes had already been missed 6,000 times this year. The figure for the whole of 2017 was 8,928 times, he said.



The government said it is deploying 200 extra staff at Heathrow this summer.

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