'Totally unacceptable': Passenger 'faints' amid huge queues at Heathrow

4 September 2021, 15:23 | Updated: 4 September 2021, 22:50

Paul Charles describes situation in Heathrow

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Border chaos at Heathrow Airport continued overnight, leading to five-hour queues and reports of people fainting amid crammed conditions.

One MP criticised the "totally unacceptable" scenes at the country's busiest travel hub with passengers raising concerns about a lack of social distancing at Terminal 5.

Hundreds of arrivals were squeezed into hallways and forced to queue for several hours with people reportedly collapsing in the queue while waiting.

Some passengers have reportedly fainted during the lengthy queues
Some passengers have reportedly fainted during the lengthy queues. Picture: Alamy

Airport bosses have laid the blame at the Home Office and Border Force for the issues, saying they failed to provide enough immigration staff to carry out checks on passengers.

Heathrow airport apologised to customers, and a Home Office spokesman said Border Force was "rapidly reviewing its rosters and capacity and flexibly deploying our staff across the airport to improve waiting times".

Pictures shared on social media appear to show long lines of people standing close together with seemingly little access to ventilation or toilets as they wait to pass through immigration.

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One man reportedly fainted as he waited for passport control, while pregnant women, pensioners and young children have needed to walk long distances due to a lack of available shuttles.

Families claim to have endured the longest waits as children under the age of 12 are not allowed to use e-gates because of limitations with the facial recognition technology, the Mirror reports.

A number of MPs have called on the Home Office to step in and take urgent action.

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Delays have been an issue throughout the week due to Border Force staff ensuring each arrival is following Covid travel rules.

A staff shortage has also contributed to issues, the Home Office said, with many workers being forced into self-isolation.

However, the conditions people are being forced to queue in have sparked concerns that coronavirus will easily spread among those waiting.

One traveller told the Mail: “There are massive queues at Terminal 5 again.

“Really young children and old people had to walk the full walkway as shuttle trains are out of service, and there are no toilets between the gates and passport control.

“No water. No social distancing. Supposedly the UK is a first world country, but not by this measure.”

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However, Home Office officials have disputed some of the claims, arguing that Border Force data reveals that the longest queue at the affected Terminal on Saturday was just one hour and 15 minutes.

Heathrow Airport said in a tweet: "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."

Meanwhile, former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith told MailOnline: “We are going to achieve the worst of all worlds by having people close together who may have Covid.

“The whole thing is chaotic and we still haven't fully opened up yet. We don't seem to have a plan for how we are going to manage that.

“If it carries on like this Heathrow will cease to be a hub airport and Britain will be left in the backwash as an irrelevant country.”

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North Wiltshire MP James Gray said the queues are “totally unacceptable” and it is “deeply embarrassing that the United Kingdom in the 21st century cannot get people into Britain faster than this”.

Reports suggest the issues began on Sunday but have continued each day, with both the airport and the Home Office acknowledging issues.

Some passengers claimed they had to queue through passport control despite e-gates being empty.

One passenger tweeted yesterday: "Chaos at Heathrow Airport Terminal 4. Four hours waiting to go through immigration.

"Families with children, pregnant ladies and old folks everyone had to wait. Is that human?"

Earlier this week, a Home Office spokesman said: "Our utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public and we will never compromise on security, and on ensuring passengers are compliant with the current health measures, which means passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border."