The queues worsened over the Bank Holiday weekend and remained throughout the week. Today, chaotic scenes from the airport continue to be posted on social media.
Heathrow Airport has responded to Britons’ complaints of the queues on Twitter, writing yesterday: “Whilst we do not have exact figures out how long queues can take our teams in the terminals are on hand to support where possible and we are working with Border Force to reduce delays as soon as possible.”
This morning, the airport added: “We are unable to provide information in regards to immigration queue times on behalf of UK Border Force, who operate and manage our immigration halls.”
In a statement, Heathrow blamed the queues on “too few Border Force officers on duty”.
Earlier this week, a Heathrow spokesperson said: “Border Force is currently experiencing some delays as they conduct additional spot checks to ensure passenger compliance with the UK Government’s latest entry requirements.
“Our teams in the terminals are on hand to support where possible and we are working with Border Force to reduce delays as soon as possible. We have already passed this onto the relevant teams who are currently looking into this.
“We assure you we are doing all we can to help passengers be seen by an officer as soon as possible. Unfortunately, only UK Border/UK GOV officials can operate UK Border desks/E-gates to protect the borders.”
Another spokesperson added today: “We have additional Heathrow colleagues to support in managing queues and to hand out passenger welfare including water, but we need every immigration desk to be staffed at peak times.
“We have escalated this with Border Force and expect them to provide a better service over the remainder of the weekend.”
Many Britons have taken to social media to vent their frustrations about the mayhem.
One person wrote this morning: “My brother was there with his kids. Waited for 3 hours. Haven’t Border Force/Heathrow learnt anything?”
Another person said: “If you’re entering UK avoid Heathrow Terminal 5 for now. Border control’s treatment of travellers is so inhumane. @HeathrowAirport @ukhomeoffice you guys can do better.”
One person claimed yesterday that people were “fainting” due to there being “no ventilation” in the queues.
They said: “Horrendous kettling at #heathrow terminal 5 arrivals tonight. No Border Force. No ventilation. No fire exits. No explanation. Held there for over an hour. People fainting. Panicked skeleton Heathrow ground team not knowing what to do.”
Earlier this week, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the chaos to travelling around the Soviet Union in the 1990s.
He tweeted: “Reminds me of travelling around the former Soviet Union in the 1990s. Children playing on the floor of the airport while their parents wait for officials to check some very important documents. ‘Welcome to the United Kingdom…’.”