Industry sources have downplayed concerns about lengthy queues at UK borders as passenger numbers ramp up from Monday.
They warn bottlenecks are more likely at overseas airports when UK holidaymakers return home as carriers will be required to check proof of vaccination and pre-departure test results.
Announcing the removal of quarantine restrictions for fully‑vaccinated travellers to amber destinations from Monday, transport secretary Grant Shapps warned of “longer waiting times” saying: “People should expect it will be different at the borders. Additional checks are likely to cause delays.”
The Times newspaper reported passengers “could be forced to sit on runways to prevent lengthy queues” and quoted an official of the ICU union which represents Border Force staff saying: “We’re not set up to cope. We’ll easily see three to four-hour queues.”
However, a leading aviation source told Travel Weekly: “UK nationals with NHS vaccination certificates can use the e-gates. It’s not the breaking point it was. It’s much more robust now.”
A second source confirmed: “The majority of e-gates at major UK ports will be upgraded by the end of July. So long as the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) works it should be OK. It will be a problem if they introduce manual checks.”
The next step will be for the PLF to capture vaccination information, “but it’s not there yet” said the source. Whether this will be captured by upload or entering the data isn’t clear.
The industry is pressing the Home Office and Border Force to follow the example of Spain “which has a PLF that verifies a vaccination certificate”.
In the meantime, carriers will be required to check vaccination certificates before passengers board UK-bound flights or face a fine.
An airline source said: “The checks will be forced upstream [to destination airports]. At the UK border they won’t have to bother checking.”
A second source pointed out: “Some passengers are critical of the lack of checks on UK arrival, but we’re trying to avoid duplicate checks. The check before you depart is ‘the check’. Queues [in the UK] will be driven by the increase in volume not by processing.”