News story

Queues at Heathrow Terminal 4

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Border Force confirms Heathrow queues less than an hour, contrary to comments made by Keith Vaz MP, following a visit to the airport.

Border Force can confirm that queues at Heathrow Terminal 4 this morning were less than an hour, contrary to comments made by the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz MP, following a visit to the airport.

More than 80 per cent of desks were manned and Border Force’s mobile teams were deployed to respond to passenger numbers. All of the e-gates in the Terminal were fully functional.

Border Force is fully prepared to cope with busy periods over the summer and during the Olympic period - and will be implementing well rehearsed plans.

A Border Force spokesperson said: ‘Keith Vaz is incorrect. Queues at Terminal 4 remained under an hour at all times. Staff were quickly redeployed and more than 80 per cent of desks were open to process passengers as quickly as possible.’

In addition to deploying additional staff we have also:

  • opened a Command Suite at Heathrow, allowing Border Force to monitor desks at all Heathrow terminals and move staff to deal with growing passenger numbers. By speeding up our reaction to bunching and  late/early flights we can deploy staff more quickly
  • introduced 16 mobile teams which give us the ability to deploy staff 24/7 to passport control in line with passenger demand
  • used our contingency pool of hundreds of trained staff to boost numbers in ports and airports
  • deployed staff flexibly to meet demand, based on airline passenger number predictions and arrival schedules

A Border Force spokesperson continued: ‘We will not compromise border security but are working with airlines to keep delays to a minimum, particularly ahead of the busy Olympic period.’

Planning for the Olympics began nearly two years ago and during the Olympics the Border Force is:

  • deploying up to 500 additional staff across the country – this includes enough staff at Heathrow to cover every desk during busy times
  • collaborating closely with BAA and other port operators to model arrival processing times during the Games. We will monitor and update our plans as airlines begin to confirm passenger numbers and arrival times
  • collecting biometric details (picture and fingerprint) in advance for athletes and coaches (Games Family Members) who would require a visa, helping to speed up checks at the border. We have already collected 15,000 biometrics
  • providing dedicated arrival lanes for Members of the Games Family arriving at Heathrow
  • rostering staff to match peak periods and using our well trained contingency force from across government