Heathrow Airport’s manager has ordered the Home Office to “get a grip” on the bottlenecks that are still causing lengthy delays at border crossings. John Holland-Kaye expressed his doubts about Border Force’s ability to cope if travel restrictions are relaxed on May 17th.
Worry Amid Flight Resumption
He stated that some passengers had experienced six-hour delays, but he assured the BBC that it was a fixable issue. More delays are anticipated, according to the Home Office, due to paperwork and health checks.
Even though only 10% of daily traffic passes through Heathrow, Mr. Holland-Kaye claims that Border Force has maintained the same staffing levels. Passengers at the UK’s busiest airport were said to have waited seven hours to pass through immigration control last month, contrary to the normal three-hour waits.
Mr. Holland-Kaye told the BBC on Thursday that six-hour lines were still not unusual.
“We have less than 10% of our daily passengers, but Border Force has the same number of employees as before the crisis, so this is entirely manageable by BF if they only man their desks properly.”
International travel restrictions are not expected to be eased until the 17th of May at the earliest, although there are concerns that when they are, border control delays will worsen.
“We haven’t seen enough activity to be assured that Border Force will be able to cope on May 17,” Mr. Holland-Kaye said.
Heathrow’s CEO also cautioned that the Home Office must get a grip on the situation to ensure that the Border Force does not become the choke point for the UK economic recovery. Meanwhile, a home office spokesperson acknowledged that corona was a global health pandemic, hence people should not be traveling unless it’s necessary.
“If passengers have not completed all of the requirements to reach the UK, queues and wait times will be longer. As such, airlines are responsible for ensuring that their passengers have completed all of the requirements, and airports are responsible for ensuring that travelers can social distance at passport control.”
However, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, once paperwork at border crossings is automated the delays can be reduced.
Mr. Holland-Kaye stated how the pandemic had crippled the Aviation industry, causing a plunge that it is yet to recover from. In 2019, cargo volumes declined 23%.
“These findings demonstrate how Covid has wreaked havoc on the aviation industry and British trade,” he said.
“The resumption of international travel on May 17 would aid in the economic recovery by enabling exporters to bring their products to market and reuniting families who have been separated for more than a year.”
However, he predicted that travel will take a long time to return to pre-pandemic levels due to government policy instability.
Despite a strong underlying demand for travel, the airport reduced its passenger forecast for the year to between 13 and 36 million passengers. Heathrow Airport, which is operated by investors such as Spain’s Ferrovial, Qatar Investment Authority, and China Investment Corp, handled 81 million passengers in 2019.
Mr. Holland-Kaye said that cost-cutting to save money had placed the airport in a good position to benefit from an eventual recovery in air travel. If travel restrictions are relaxed as expected, the aviation industry hopes to begin the process next month. However, there is still some doubt as to where people will be able to travel and how digital vaccine passports will work.