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British tourists face hours of airport queues on return from summer break abroad

British tourists face hours of airport queues on return from summer break abroad as source warns overstretched border staff are ‘almost at breaking point’

  • Leaked Home Office analysis says wait times could reach four hours at Heathrow
  • One trade union claimed the true figure could be ten hour queues at airports 
  • Officials say the report was ‘out of date’ but warn travelling will not be ‘smooth’

Those who do venture abroad this summer face hours of airport queues.

‘Staff on the border are already stretched almost to breaking point,’ one immigration source said. ‘As the number of flights ramps up that will only get worse… there will be very long queues indeed.’

Leaked Home Office analysis suggests waiting times could reach four hours at Heathrow. One trade union claimed the true figure could be far higher, with holidaymakers potentially queuing for up to ten hours to get back into Britain.

Passengers queue to return to Britain at Heathrow Airport where wait times could reach four hours

Heathrow’s Terminal 3 has now been reserved for passengers coming in from ‘red list’ countries only – but one insider said this ‘has proved a false economy’, adding: ‘There were only three flights from red countries on the first day. It just took staff away from busier parts of the airport. Broad estimates suggest we will still see incredibly long queuing times at the border – easily longer than the four hours estimated by the Home Office.’

Officials insisted that the leaked analysis was out of date. 

‘Since that study was completed in April we have seen smoother queues,’ a Home Office source said.

‘We have successfully tested a system which automates checking of the compulsory “passenger locator forms” as people pass through e-gates in the arrivals halls. That should be rolled out in the next few weeks in time for the summer peak.’

The source stressed, however, that ‘we have said all along that travellers are going to face queues because we are not going to compromise on checks at the border’. 

The Home Office source warned travelling will 'not be as smooth' as before the pandemic

The Home Office source warned travelling will ‘not be as smooth’ as before the pandemic

They added: ‘It will be difficult as the number of passengers increases. Travelling is not going to be as smooth as it was before the pandemic. We urge everyone to make sure they have completed all the paperwork accurately and in full – it’s sorting out mistakes at the border which causes all the delays.’

Passengers must show proof of a negative Covid test and bookings for two more tests on arrival in Britain. 

Those from red list nations must book quarantine accommodation, too. It can take immigration officers between 30 and 60 minutes to carry out checks – and notify passengers of potential fines – if these rules have not been followed.

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