Welcome to London

By | Category: Travel rumblings

What’s the first thing you want to do after a long flight- arguably the most uncomfortable part of your holiday?

For some flyers, the answer may involve turning on their technology (think iPhones, laptops and all the other devices they have been forced to switch off, while up in the air).

However most of us would probably agree that after an arduous flight full of fitful wakefulness, all we want to do is head straight to our accommodation – be it home, a hotel, a hostel or an Airbnb abode – for a cup of tea and a decent kip.

Unfortunately for those of us on on a flight from Buenos Aires (Argentina) to London  last week, via a lengthy stop off in Sao Paulo (Brazil), Heathrow had other ideas…

Upon disembarking the TAM (great airline by the way) aircraft, I proceeded with predominantly Brazilian and Argentinian passengers to passport control – to be greeted by what can only be described as unbearable queue.

Make no mistake: the queue  – a consequence of Heathrow’s e-gates being closed – was even crazier than the one you see outside an Apple store, everytime a new product is released.

Little wonder then that the fiery South Americans’ tempers  – having had their knees jammed against a seat for 19 hours – began to fray. And I can’t say I blame them: I wasn’t exactly feeling like Mother Teresa myself.

Fast forward two hours and we finally cleared passport control and made it to baggage reclaim (where of course all our bags had been unceremoniously dumped off the carousel). I was travelling light, as I am want to do, and so only had one backpack. However many of my travelling companions had arrived with two oversized suitcases (TAM allows passengers to check in two bags, free of charge, and the Brazilians I spoke to all said they had travelled with an empty bag so as to be able to shop up a storm in the fashion capital of the world.) Unfortunately for them, Heathrow had – by this stage – run out of trolleys, so they were forced to struggle through customs carrying/dragging their bags.

I’m confident that my fellow flyers went on to have a great time in London – one of the world’s greatest cities – but I still remain at a loss as to why Heathrow would choose to update the passport gates over Easter, aka peak travel season?

I took to Twitter to ask them and received this reply: “Hi Kaye, this is a work in progress by the UKBA. Apologies for the delays and inconvenience. Thanks for your patience.”

To which I thanked them for their response, while pointing out that it wasn’t exactly the “Welcome to London” the South Americans on my flight had been hoping for… Heathrow testily replied that it’s the government who determines when to update the passport gates.

Potatoe, potato… the fact of the matter remains that, just as the Underground is invariably out of action at weekends and on bank holidays – basically the times when Londoners want to venture out and make the most of the metropolis – some official or other decided it would be smart to close the passport gates at Heathrow over Easter.

Granted, there’s never going to be a good time to close the passport gates at Heathrow – the sixth busiest airport in the world – but opting to update them in peak holiday season makes no sense at all.


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