UK borders have been plunged into chaos due to a systems failure rendering the e-gates unavailable. The e-gates are typically offered to passengers with UK, EU, and select other passports. Using biometric data, they confirm the individual’s identity before granting entry if all is in order.
The UK border experience has been a hot topic since the country reopened following a particularly harsh travel ban earlier this year. Even with the e-gates in operation, it has taken those eligible to use them hours to enter the country on some occasions.
More chaos than usual
In recent months there have been regular reports of lengthy waits at UK airport borders. Due to a system failure, the chaos is growing even further today. Across the country, the e-gates used to speed up immigration into the UK are currently unavailable.
We’re aware of a systems failure impacting the e-gates, which are staffed & operated by Border Force. This issue is impacting a number of ports of entry and is not an isolated issue at Heathrow. Our teams are working with Border Force to find a solution as quickly as possible.
— Heathrow Airport (@HeathrowAirport) September 24, 2021
Heathrow Airport first reported that it was experiencing such issues at 13:41 this afternoon. The airport revealed that it was working with Border Force, who administer the border, to find a solution to the problem asap.
With the e-gates out of service, passengers will all need to be manually checked by immigration officers. This will likely lead to large queues for a couple of reasons. Firstly, passengers typically take longer to pass through a staffed desk, as checks are not automated.
The more significant issue is that Border Force will likely have rostered staff as though the e-gates are working. After all, the system’s failure wasn’t scheduled. This means that the same number of staff will likely be handling more passengers than usual. Photos being shared on social media show passenger backlogs extending out beyond the passport control area.
Delays aren’t new
Delays at the UK border haven’t been unheard of since the start of the year. Initially, the UK was late to introduce border restrictions at the beginning of the pandemic. Indeed, Germany had already dropped its strictest travel restrictions before the UK started.
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Since May, an increasing number of passengers have been flowing into the UK as travel restrictions were relaxed. However, demanding document checks still created bottlenecks.
Simple Flying flew into London Heathrow’s Terminal 2 in mid-May. While the e-gates were operational, all eligible passengers had to show their passenger locator form, negative pre-departure tests, and PCR booking confirmations to a member of the border force staff. A handful of staff carried out these checks, meaning that passengers waited for two hours before passing the border control check. Since then, passengers have been reporting similar wait times at some international airports, despite the head of border force vowing to address the issues in May.
Have you been affected by the border control issues? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!