Passport Control Lines

By | Category: Travel rumblings

© Dan Sperrin

Check-in queues have decreased in size as on-line check-in and airport check-in machines have become widespread. What has increased has been the length of the queues at passport control. You might understand that the queues at the non-nationals/EU section takes longer to process as more questions have to be asked But why does it take longer in the UK/EU sections? Is it because EU nationals go through the same line and there are more people to process? Is it because instead of just looking at your picture, the officials now have to scan your details through and wait for them to appear on their screens?
But there still seems to be over riding source of delay. The number of gates that are manned. On Saturday evening at about 8.30pm I got back to terminal 4 at Heathrow to find that at least 12 gates were unmanned. There may have been more. I couldn’t see because of the number of people that were waiting to go though control. For all I know there might have been twice that number. The only people who were getting through quickly were workers – who had their own lane – and those with passports that had iris recognition. The 3 iris lanes, for want of a better word, were free most of the time. In the 30 minutes I waited to get through the UK/EU lanes, (of which there were just 3 open until one chap came on saying there was only 5 minutes left of his shift and then he was going) just 4 people used the iris lane.
Yes 30 minutes on a Saturday evening to get through what used to be a fairly quick lane.
The authorities know what planes are coming in. They know the number of passengers. They can probably forecast the number who will be UK/EU and non EU. So why can’t they roster or have a suitable number of people to process passengers more quickly? Even if another 6 out of the 12 lanes were manned it would have made a big difference. But no, passengers had to contend with queues that stretched entirely out of the passport control hall and back into the passageways that led from the gates. Making visitors and nationals feel welcome is a pivotal way of persuading tourists to return to the UK and tourism is a vitally important industry as even the prime minister acknowledges. So it’s time for someone to get their act together and sort the mess of passport control queues out. Better rostering looks to be the solution.

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