A prominent UK travel firm has suggested that the long lines that continue to keep travelers waiting at London Heathrow airport are part of a “government strategy” to discourage flying. Is there any truth to that charge?
UK Government Accused Of Deliberately Keeping Border Control Lines Long
This week, lines at London Heathrow Airport in Terminal 2 and Terminal 5 have grown to as long as five hours to process inbound travelers. The UK government blames this on a shortage of Border Force staff and the inability of e-gates to process passengers younger than 12 years old. It also blames the need to process incoming Afghan refugees coupled with the summer bank holiday that occurred on August 30th. Earlier, the Home Office drew outrage after stating that travelers “need to accept” the long lines in order to protect citizens of the UK from COVID-19. Now, the government is saying it is doing all it can to alleviate wait times while promoting safety.
But Noel Josephides, Director of AITO, a Specialist Travel Association in the UK, told the Daily Mail:
“Very unfortunately, we believe that allowing such unnecessarily bad experiences to occur is part of the Government’s strategy simply to put people off travelling overseas.”
My reply is the long lines are likely a much better indicator of government incompetence as well as the difficulty of finding border force staff more than a malevolent plan to discourage travel.
But I will say that the long lines are a joke and not unique to the United Kingdom. They are a joke in the sense that people queue for hours in an enclosed space with no practical social distancing…so their COVID-19 documents can be checked. Talk about irony.
Instead of asking airlines to scrupulously check documents like vaccination cards or negative COVID-19 tests then checking them again at the border, why not trust airlines to do it, fine the heck out of them if fail to do so, and revert to more random checks at the border?
That’s already occurring, to an extent. A leaked memo obtained by The Guardian urged border officials to skip checking documents from passengers arriving from “green” and “amber” list countries.
Long border waits may be unavoidable at times, but it seems like the UK (like the USA) is being impacted by understaffing and a system that takes far too long in the first place to administer. Protecting the border is laudable but doing so in an efficient way has ripple effects that impact the entire economy.
image: Twitter / @theantipleb