Airlines oppose higher landing fee to cut immigration queues at Heathrow
BA, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines and Virgin are – unsurprisingly – totally against landing fees being used to pay for government border agency staff. An increase in landing fees, which are now £19.30 per passenger at Heathrow, must be approved by the CAA. A % is already used by BAA to pay for immigration control infrastructure, such as the new e-passport gates, but the money has not been used before to pay immigration staff. UK Border Force staff numbers have been cut by 800 in the past 2 years and a further 700 jobs will be lost by 2014-15. More than 550 volunteers (many retired and those recently redunded) are reportedly going to be drafted in to help man UK borders during the Olympics. Meanwhile Willie Walsh tried to make out some of the money from APD could be used for this. APD is not for that – it is to compensate for lack of VAT and fuel duty on air travel.
2 May 2012 (Travel Mole)
Airlines oppose fee to cut queues at Heathrow
Airlines have hit out at suggestions landing fees could be increased to help cut queuing times at airports.
While British Airways said it was not totally against the move, Virgin Atlantic said: “We would be strongly opposed to airlines being forced to pay for extra border staff.”
Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines told the Financial Times they too were opposed to the plan and Willie Walsh, boss of IAG, accused the government of “failing to get to grips” with the crisis at Heathrow.
Any increase in landing fees, which already cost £19.30 per passenger at Heathrow, must be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. A percentage is already used by BAA to pay for immigration control infrastructure, such as the new e-passport gates, but the money has not been used before to pay immigration staff.
UK Border Force staff numbers have been cut by 800 in the past two years and a further 700 jobs will be lost by 2014-15 and BAA accused the Home Office of failing to ensure there were enough staff to man desks at peak times.
More than 550 volunteers are reportedly going to be drafted in to help man UK borders during the Olympics to help cope with 660,000 additional arrivals, but there is, as yet, no long term strategy to reduce queuing times.
According to The Times, [ £ http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3400875.ece ] staff from Revenue & Customs, retired immigration officers and those who have already taken voluntary redundancy will be given four days training before taking up their posts at passport controls at London airports and in Calais, Dunkirk and Bristol.
All leave for UK Border Force staff has been cancelled during the Olympics but airlines are concerned that staff shortages are already leading to delays of up to three hours at Heathrow and they will continue after the Games.
Mary Rance, chief executive for UKinbound, has called on the Home Office and UK Border Force to recognise that “staffing at UK Borders should be for life not just the Olympics.
“Where is the sense of urgency?” she asked. “It is all well and good drafting in emergency staff from Manchester but what does that quick fix solve? Papering over the cracks is not the answer.
“What the government must realise is that there is life after the Olympics. The UK’s brand image and reputation is on the line. We cannot afford to lose potential visitors, business travellers and investors to the UK. We do not have that luxury.”
Meanwhile Nigel Pocklington at Hotels.com is warning that any prolonged delays could have far reaching consequences
“Continuing border delays at Heathrow airport risk damaging London’s reputation as a tourist destination on the eve of the city’s most exciting summer for a lifetime,” he said.
“Pictures of lengthy queues at passport control being beamed around the world could put travellers off from visiting the UK. This problem has to be resolved quickly and decisively in order to restore confidence.”
By Linsey McNeill
Airlines could be asked to pay through higher landing fees for quicker Border Control checks
Date added: May 1, 2012
The FT reports that airlines using London’s Heathrow airport would pay higher landing fees to help sort out Britain’s border chaos under a plan backed by David Cameron. They say BAA is studying the proposal, which foresees airlines funding extra Border Force staff through the charges they pay BAA. The Government believes airlines should meet a share of the cost of cutting the immigration queues. “The real answer is to get the airlines to pay for more security – that’s the long-term answer.” BAA levies annual landing charges worth more than £1bn on airlines at Heathrow to pay for infrastructure investment, including some equipment at the border, such as e-passport gates. The landing fees could help to pay for additional Border Force staff. Willie Walsh has said airlines would be prepared to pay for the right service but not if the government was wasting money. Meanwhile some Border Agency staff were flown from Manchester to Heathrow, to cope with delays.
This outrageous Willie Walsh quote ignores the fact that for most travellers to & from Europe, APD is £13. Not £92.
Evening Standard 1.5.2012
BA boss: Use passenger tax to ease passport crisis
Ministers were today told to use the “billions of pounds” they raise from air passenger duty to pay for extra border guards.
British Airways supremo Willie Walsh said the taxpayer cash should be used to ease the crisis at passport control.
He said the charge, which is up to £92 per person for long-haul flights, could be diverted to pay for staff checking passengers’ passports.
He told the Standard: “The Government should use the billions of pounds that it receives from taxpayers every year in air passenger duty to provide a proper border service.” He was speaking after claims that David Cameron wants to raise money to pay for more border guards by charging airlines even more in landing costs.
Mr Walsh, the head of International Airlines Group, which owns BA, said that this idea was a “complete red herring and diversion” thrown up by Whitehall to distract attention for the row over immigration queues.
Mr Walsh launched a fierce attack on immigration minister Damian Green over his claim that delays faced by passengers had been exaggerated.
He said: “Anybody who has gone through an airport in recent times has experienced the unacceptably poor standards that the border force has provided. The Government has tried to convince people that we don’t have a crisis; the Government is misleading people, we have a crisis, it has been there for some time and we need urgent action.”
Mr Green claimed that the longest recent waiting time at Heathrow had been 90 minutes and that 99 per cent of British and EU passengers cleared passport control within 25 minutes in the first two weeks of April.
Unofficial BAA figures from Heathrow suggest that the longest wait in the last week was 2.5 hours at Terminal Five with delays of two hours also experienced at Terminals Three and Four.
More on Air Passenger Duty. Air Passenger Duty
“3.16 The Government has been clear that APD is primarily a revenue-raising duty which makes an important contribution to the public finances, whilst also giving rise to secondary environmental benefits. Furthermore, VAT is not applied to flights and aviation fuel for commercial flights is not taxed”.
Queues at Heathrow, cuts to UK Border Agency budget and what it costs the taxpayer
April 28, 2012 Long queues at Heathrow for Border Control are getting a lot of news coverage, and there are fears this is damaging the reputation of Heathrow. Some claim even damaging the reputation of the UK. Fast Track passengers – in many cases business passengers who are considered as vital for the British economy – also often have to queue for up to half an hour. The Border Force has agreed a series of performance targets with Heathrow setting out the maximum acceptable queuing times. Immigration controls are not done by BAA itself, but by the UK Border Agency. The UK Border Agency gets about 35 – 40% of its funds from fees (visa charges, permits etc – not from the airport or port), the rest is paid by the taxpayer. Quite how much border control at UK airports costs is not revealed. Civil service unions have predicted even longer queues if the Border Force presses ahead with plans to cut staff. The Telegraph says the number of Border Agency staff at airports will fall from 8,500 in October 2010 to 7,322 by April 2015. The Immigration Service fears delays could get much worse during the Olympics. Click here to view full story…
What are the numbers of Border Force staff ?
Another source says, of the numbers:
The Immigration Services Union, which represents 4,500 staff at ports and airports, said its members will strike next Thursday over plans to raise the retirement age. (Mirror) link
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The Public and Commercial Services Union’s represents 13,000 Border Agency staff, 1,000 based at Heathrow. (TravelMole) link
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The Telegraph says the number of Border Agency staff at airports will fall from 8,500 in October 2010 to 7,322 by April 2015. The Immigration Service fears delays could get much worse during the Olympics. link
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Leaked figures obtained by the Labour Party reveal that around 880 officers (10%) have been cut from the UK Border Force since 2010. A further 1,550 officer posts could go by 2014/15, the BBC understands. (BBC) link
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Immigration staff fear the situation will be exacerbated as the Government seeks to reduce the number of Border Force officers from 8,874 in March, 2010, to 7,322 by March, 2015. (Telegraph) link
In 2010, 62% of flights to UK airports originated from within the EU link