Arrivals at Heathrow Airport may have to queue for up to six hours to go through immigration controls, making the situation “unsustainable”.
Airport official Chris Garton said police were forced to intervene as passengers were frustrated with the delays.
When presenting evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee, he stated that waiting times have typically been “well over two hours and up to six hours” in recent days.
He said, “We’re starting to see disruption to some of the incoming passengers. If you have to queue for two or three hours, you don’t want to, and we even have to involve the police to help us.”
Mr Garton continued, “What happened was a whole new set of controls – 100 percent control of everyone – and that obviously put a huge strain on the officers working at the border.”
“The Home Office did not provide them with any additional officers.”
He told MPs the amount of resources dedicated to handling passengers at the border “has always been an issue” but the coronavirus pandemic “has made it so much worse than before”.
He continued: “We want this bottleneck to be removed as soon as possible. It’s a problem today, it becomes a much bigger problem after May 17th (when foreign vacation travel from England could resume). “
Mr Garton said the “solution” is to allow passengers to ensure that their entry into the UK is “secured” before starting their journey.
Errors on passenger search forms should be spotted and corrected in advance, and automated e-gates should be able to review documents, he told MPs.
This would allow arriving travelers “to flow through the e-gates as usual, rather than having to queue and present their records to a congested border guard,” added Garton.