Financial News

  • 1 May 2014, 13:51

Fights As Airport Glitch Sparks Long Delays

Computer problems that led to long delays at Britain's busiest airports and caused fights to break out among queuing passengers are said to have been fixed.

Passport scanners stopped working across the country, forcing border staff at Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester airports, among others, to check documents by hand.

However, a spokesman for Gatwicksaid the IT glitch was resolved overnight.

A Heathrow spokesman would not confirm whether its computers were back online but said passengers were clearing immigration "in good time".

James Brokenshire, the immigration and security minister, said engineers had worked "through the night" to fix the problems, adding:"The current situation is much improved and we're doing our best to keep waiting times to a minimum during this morning's busy period."

Extra border control staff members were brought in on Wednesday to try to reduce the lengthy lines.

As frustrations boiled over, passengers reported isolated fights breaking out over accusations of queue jumping.

Kay Perry, who was 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 terminals. Nobody really knew where they were meant to join the queues so fights started to break out."

The computer problem, which hit both immigration booths and e-passport queues, mainly affected people trying to enter the country.

It had a particular impact on passengers from outside the EU.

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's an IT failure but that's it. You would have thought there'd be a back-up plan."

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Home Office said it had provided extra staff to get passengers through passport control "as quickly as possible".

"Our priority remains security of the border," he said.

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

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