UK & World News

  • 30 April 2014, 23:29

'Fights' As IT Glitch Sparks Long Airport Queues

Fights among airport passengers have been reported after long queues formed at passport control desks due to IT problems.

A fault affecting UK Border Force computers on Wednesday afternoon led to travel disruption and extra staff have been brought in to try to reduce the lengthy lines.

Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester are among the airports across the country that were hit.

The problem is mostly affecting those trying to enter the country and is having a particular impact on non-EU airline customers.

The scuffles apparently broke out over accusations of queue jumping.

Kay Perry, flying to the UK from Majorca, told Sky News: "We joined the queues at Gatwick's south terminal which actually extended out of the passport control room, up the stairs and along the corridors.

"We had people merging from the north and south terminal. Nobody really knew where they were meant to join the queues so fights started to break out."

Passport scanners are not working and staff are manually checking each passport. The problem is also affecting e-passports.

Chris Hyland, a 32-year-old company director from Islington, north London, said international passengers at Gatwick had been told to expect a wait of up to four hours.

He said: "We landed from Geneva at 5.20pm but it took until 6.40pm for us to get through passport control.

"It's an absolute nightmare. We've been told there is an IT failure but that's it. You would have thought there would be a back-up plan."

Mr Hyland said non-EU passengers were preparing for a long wait to officially enter the country.

He said: "It is very frustrating. Nobody is really saying anything.

"The international queue is pretty huge, so people have already started sitting down because they know they will be there for a long, long time."

A Government spokesman said: "We are currently experiencing temporary IT problems which may add to the time taken to conduct passport checks.

"We are working to rectify this issue and are providing extra staff to get passengers through the controls as quickly as possible. Our priority remains security of the border.

"We apologise for any additional time this adds to passengers' journeys."

A Heathrow spokesman said: "There are some longer queues than normal in the terminals, but we have spoken to border force and they are putting on extra staff.

"Obviously, we want to sort the issue out but not risk the integrity of the border controls."

A Birmingham Airport spokesman said: "We are aware (of the glitch) and the impact it is having at the moment.

"It appears to be getting progressively worse but we are hoping it will be sorted out soon."

A Gatwick spokesman added: "We are experiencing similar (problems) to the rest of the airports, and we are working to get people through.

"People should be able to get off the plane, it is those coming through the immigration process which it is frustrating."

Advertisement