The Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport John Holland-Kaye has voiced concerns over the UK Border Force’s competency to cope with the additional covid-19 checks once all the restrictions on foreign travel are lifted.
He said the Home Office and UK Border Force must “get a grip” and ensure they are prepared to handle their new responsibilities prior to the government’s plan to allow people to holiday on the 17th of May.
The government’s four step plan revealed the intention to remove most social distancing rules including indoor hospitality on the 17th of May and have the majority of restrictions lifted by the 21st of June.
Speaking on his current plans Mr Holland-Kaye stated “We are focused on the 17th of May… working with the airlines to make sure we can give a really warm welcome to passengers”.
“But the key question is is whether border Force will be ready to receive those passengers when they come into the country, so they have a smooth journey through the airport and not the kind of lengthy queues that unfortunately we have seen too often in recent weeks.”
He continued to say he is “deeply concerned” with their struggles to handle the current number of passengers which is only a few thousand due to all the additional checks.
“They either need to change that system or have more Border Force officers on the desks”.
“Border Force and the Home Office need to get a grip on this ahead of May 17th so that immigration does not become a stranglehold on the UK’s economic recovery”.
On Thursday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told parliament of the plans to automate pre departure COVID test forms to speed up the process, enabling passengers to use the e-gates.
Currently, people who can travel have been using paper forms meaning the process is much slower, causing large delays despite the number of travellers being extremely low.
Heathrow and many other airports around the world have been struggling due to the pandemic and this year it is foreseen there could be an even fewer number of passengers than in 2020 due to uncertainty regarding government plans to reopen travel.
Numbers are expected to be as low as 13million passengers travelling through Heathrow with a mere 1.7million passengers using the airport from January to March this year.
The airport suffered losses of 2billion pounds in 2020 and quarterly results published on Thursday show losses at an estimated 307million pounds for the period of January to March this year.
By Kevwe Alex-Eyitene