Anger over non-functional e-passport gates at airports

  • Written by Rachel Russell and Jasmine Anderson
  • BBC News

Passengers flying into the UK faced hours of delays at airports across the country as passport electronic gates were not working.

Travelers have reported their frustration at being stuck in lines at airports including Heathrow, Manchester and Gatwick.

On Saturday evening, the Ministry of Interior said all electronic gates were now operating as normal.

A source told the BBC that the disruption, which began on Friday evening, was due to an IT issue.

All airports across the country that use the technology have been affected.

The e-gate system speeds up the passport control process by allowing some passengers to check their passports. Facial recognition is used to verify identity and to capture the traveler’s photo.

People traveling to the UK have had to manually check their passports, and larger airports with electronic gates are the hardest hit.

Mark Barrett was booked on a flight from Chicago to Manchester via Heathrow Airport, but told BBC News he changed his plans after he was left waiting for more than two hours at London airport.

He said: “It was absolute chaos at passport control. There were really frustrated people and a couple tried to jump lines, the police had to get involved and one passenger fainted.”

image source, @employee

photo caption,

Chris O’Hara, who was stuck in Gatwick Airport’s North Terminal at 02:00 GMT, said the queue was “very hot”

Stephen, who declined to give his second name, waited two and a half hours at Bristol Airport on Saturday afternoon without any water.

He said: “It was very hot, there was only one opportunity to fill a bottle of water in the arrivals lanes, and none in the immigration hall itself.

“I didn’t have a bottle of water to fill up, so I was very thirsty afterward.”

Eurostar passengers were also affected, as travelers waited in long lines at the Paris Gare du Nord train station because the electronic gates were not working.

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Stephen S waited at passport control at Bristol Airport for two and a half hours on Saturday afternoon

A man said he had to queue at Luton airport more than two hours early. Craig Pullen told the BBC it was “too bad” that travelers were not given regular updates on the problem, or told how long it would take to clear passports.

Bobby Lane waited three hours at Luton Airport passport control in the early hours of Saturday morning.

He paid tribute to the Bedfordshire police officer who distributed water bottles to distressed commuters, tweeting that he had “kept thousands in line with his humor and kindness”.

An airport spokesman said the mood among passengers was “patience and understanding”.

Dave Tatlow was one of 300 passengers stuck in a line at Heathrow in the early morning.

He said some passengers became overheated in the hot glass building.

After that, bottles of water were distributed.”

This weekend was expected to be a busy one for travelers, as the bank holiday coincides with half term holidays for many families.

Separately, travelers leaving the UK from the port of Dover also encountered issues after the French passport system failed earlier on Saturday.

This problem has now been resolved, but cars and buses have been waiting for about an hour, with about 400 trucks queuing for the crossing.

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Passengers line up for a ferry at the port of Dover in Kent on Saturday

Lucy Morton, of the Immigration Services Union, told the BBC that between 60-80% of arriving passengers usually use electronic gates, depending on the airport.

“There is no impact on national security,” she added, explaining that all arrivals would have been fully screened in the officers’ inhabited offices.

The portals can be used by British citizens over the age of 12 who are from the European Union, as well as people from countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States, Japan and New Zealand.

However all entry points maintain security desks manned for other passengers who are unable to use the electronic gates.

Have your travel plans been affected by delays? Share your experiences by e-mail [email protected].

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