Airlines could be asked to pay through higher landing fees for quicker Border Control checks
May 1, 2012 ( Financial Times)
Airline levy could ease UK border chaos
By George Parker, Andrew Parker and Helen Warrell
Cameron believes airlines should meet a share of the cost of cutting the immigration queues. Anofficial said: “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. It is now interested in the possibility of also using the fees 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.
Rain blamed for latest chaos in Heathrow queues
Revealed: failed airport eye scanners have cost £2 for every passenger who used them
The recent heavy rain across the south of England was the main cause of the chaotic scenes at Heathrow airport, the Government claimed yesterday as extra staff were drafted in to prevent huge queues building up again.
Ministers were accused of causing the problem of lengthy delays at passport checks by cutting numbers of border staff – and the London Mayor Boris Johnson said the crisis was giving “a terrible impression of the UK” to foreign visitors.
Analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals that the iris recognition immigration system, which scans the unique patterns of travellers’ eyes to confirm their identities, has cost just over £9m – but has only been used 4.7 million times, at a cost of £2 per passenger scanned.
Immigration officers were flown from Manchester to Heathrow to staff desks yesterday in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the disruption.
The iris recognition immigration system, which scans the unique patterns of travellers’ irises to confirm their identities, was introduced six years ago in an attempt to cut down on delays at passport control.
Earlier this year the Government said the costly system was being scrapped after revealing that the software used was already out of date. Birmingham and Manchester airports have stopped using the scanners. They are operational in Heathrow and Gatwick, however enrollment on to the scheme has stopped. Around 385,000 people are registered, according to information released by UKBA.
Despite costing £4.9m to develop and a £4.2m to run, the technology and new automatic passport scanning gates often fail.
Damian Green makes pledge over airport queue delays
Immigration Minister Damian Green said plans were in place for the peak period over the summer.
Mr Green made an emergency Commons statement on the lengthy immigration queues seen at Heathrow recently.
He said delays were caused mainly by severe weather disrupting flights.
But shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said the problem was down to a lack of resources and the government was “running out of alibis”.
Mr Green also said there would be a new Border Force central control room at Heathrow and rapid response teams to deal with pressures across the airport, and new shift patterns would be implemented within weeks.
But the Immigration Services Union’s Lucy Moreton told BBC News: “It takes some time to move from terminal to terminal at Heathrow – it takes about 45 minutes to get to each side of the airport.
“So even then deployment isn’t going to be an instantaneous thing as Mr Green thinks it is.”
She criticised him for talking of “an unexpected surge in passenger flows” and said: “These aircraft have been flying for some hours and we do know exactly how many people are on them.”
“The BBC has also seen confidential leaked UK Border figures which show a fall in the number of forged documents detected in the past three months. They show 6.5% fewer detections recorded in January than in the same month in 2011, 26% fewer year-on-year in February, and 16% fewer in March.
A Heathrow passport control officer, who spoke to the BBC anonymously, said he was “absolutely certain” detection rates had fallen partly as a result of staff shortages.
The fall showed staff were under so much pressure they were unable to closely question the holders of potentially forged passports, the passport control officer said.
But the BBC’s Tom Symonds said the number of detections had also fallen because of the introduction of British passport checks abroad and because the new biometric passport is harder to forge.
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…