Half-mile Heathrow queues prompt Olympics crisis fear

Queues lasting nearly two and a half hours have been reported at Heathrow last week – with some starting far outside the immigration hall.

Inbound passengers were then met with empty passport control desks and uninterested staff, the Daily Telegraph reports today.

Labour called on the government to get a grip of the “immediate crisis brewing less than four weeks before the Olympics”.

Passengers at Terminal 4 were stuck in half-mile queues on Friday, starting long before they even got to the immigration hall, according to the newspaper.

They said that once they got there, two out of three desks were not manned and immigration officers “talked among themselves” while ignoring passenger demands to know what was causing the delays.

Officials were also seen trying to prevent passengers taking photographs of the chaos as an estimated 4,000 people waited in line.

Eye recognition technology – Iris – was not available to many passengers, and some could not use the E-passport queues.

BAA, which runs Heathrow, admitted that target times for passengers passing through immigration were missed.

Union officials warned of a doomsday scenario caused by the “triple whammy” of fewer fully trained staff, an influx of holiday passengers, and Olympic crowds.

An extra 650,000 passengers are expected to pass though the airport during the Games.

BAA said visitor numbers were starting to increase in line with the holiday season, and Olympic athletes and delegations were also arriving.

The company said that over a two-hour period on Friday morning queue times were on average 1hour 30 minutes. There were similar problems later that day and also during busier periods on Saturday.

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