16/Apr/2014 - Last News Update: 08:58

BA boss claims Heathrow border queue times 'misleading'

Category: England

Published: 1st May 2012 10:14:44

Willie Walsh - the boss of British Airways' parent company IAG - has accused the government of "misleading people" over border control queues at London's Heathrow Airport.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Mr Walsh called for "urgent action" to solve what he claims is an ongoing crisis.

Immigration minister Damian Green says UK Border Force figures show the longest waiting time is 90 minutes.

He has promised mobile teams of border staff to cut queues at peak times.

On Monday, Mr Green told the Commons that severe weather conditions had contributed to lengthy immigration queues at Heathrow over the weekend.

But he claimed that non-EU nationals were waiting no longer than an hour and a half to enter the country.

Mr Walsh told the Today programme that a more detailed analysis using data from Heathrow showed some passengers queued for two hours and 31 minutes on Friday 27 April.

"Anybody who has gone through an airport in recent times has experienced the unacceptable 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," he said.

Mr Green defended the Border Force figures - which are taken every hour - saying they are "as accurate as can be", but conceded that waits are "still too long".

Damian Green says airports are taking significant steps to ensure the right channels are open at the right time.

Reiterating what he said in the Commons on Monday, the immigration minister told the BBC that a new central control room is being established at Heathrow to mobilise teams of border staff at terminals where queues may be beginning to build up.

He said a new rostering system will begin in May which will make the system more flexible, and guaranteed that all border control desks would be fully manned during the London Olympic games, which start on 27 July.

Mr Green said on Monday that most people pass through immigration "quickly".

Between January and March, the average waiting time across all UK airports was six minutes for UK and EU citizens, and 25 minutes for non-EU passengers.

Mr Green denied that discussions had taken place between airports owner BAA, the airlines and the government, over whether higher landing fees should be introduced to fund extra border force staff.

The Financial Times claims that the Prime Minister David Cameron would support such a move.

Mr Walsh stated that in the past, the airlines offered to pay for more people, but the move was rejected by the government.

On Monday, shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said the problem was down to a lack of resources, and that the government was "running out of alibis".

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BBC News, 2012. BA boss claims Heathrow border queue times 'misleading' [Online] (Updated 1st May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1425702/BA-boss-claims-Heathrow-border-queue-times-misleading [Accessed 16th Apr 2014]

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