A warning that passport queues to enter the UK could regularly extend to three or four hours has been described as a national embarrassment as well as striking a serious blow to the UK economy.
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK called for the Border Force to be given access to improved processes and better use of available information if the UK is to avoid visitors choosing to take their business elsewhere.
The organisation, representing more than 80 airlines, says that the need to ensure full border checks can be managed against the steady growth of air travel.
Reliance on traditional manual systems will simply lead to longer queues and the need to build ever-larger immigration halls, according to the organisation in response to the latest forecast of delays by the Immigration Services Union.
Bar UK chief executive Mike Carrivick said: “The efforts of the Border Force to handle peak periods such as bank holidays and the Olympics are well-recognised but cannot be sustained without necessary changes.
“The airline community already cooperates by providing advance access to the passport data of approximately 90 million travellers each year, all of whom can be checked against a watch-list to identify those who pose a threat or who should not be in the UK.”
He added: “Allied to that, airlines would also like to see an increase in the number of smart gates, that permit automated entry through the use of chip-enabled passports, and the re-introduction of smartzones.
“Collectively, huge improvements can be made to the queues to enter the UK without compromising the government’s need for full border controls.”
Carrivick went on: “We call upon the government to speed up entry into the UK by investing now in the technology and systems which will allow far more efficient use of available information and resources, without compromising on security.”