EDINBURGH (Reuters) - British Airways (BA) has called on UK border authorities to address “serious inefficiencies” causing long delays at airport immigration controls ahead of Britain’s exit from the European Union.
BA said difficulties processing passengers after a new electronic gate system was introduced last year were causing long waits in queues, sometimes of more than an hour. During the busy holiday period this was made more frustrating by immigration gates being closed, the airline said.
“With Brexit just round the corner, more than ever, the UK needs to show that it’s an easy place to travel to,” it said in a statement.
BA said it supported the interior ministry’s efforts to step up security, after a series of militant attacks earlier this year, but that more needed to be done.
“It is a dreadful welcome for visitors to the UK to be faced with a packed immigration hall and the prospect of a frustrating delay to the start of their holiday or business trip. It adds insult to injury when you’re stuck in a queue but can see numerous gates which just aren’t being used.”
An interior ministry spokesman quoted by The Telegraph and other media accused BA of exaggerating.
“This significantly misrepresents the experience of the vast majority of passengers arriving at Heathrow this summer,” he was quoted as saying.
“More than 99 percent of British and European passengers arriving at Heathrow are dealt with within 25 minutes. For passengers from outside the European Economic Area, 87 percent of passengers have been dealt with within 45 minutes,” he said.
Earlier this month, BA, owned by International Consolidated Airlines (ICAG.L) said Britain’s airports could see passenger numbers plunge by as much as 40 percent unless the government strikes an interim aviation deal with the EU by October 2018, according to an industry report seen by Reuters.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Helen Popper