Heathrow Airport passport queues reached two-and-a-half hours in July - data

  • The U.K. Border Force missed its target for passport check wait times for 95 percent of visitors from outside the European Economic Area on all but one day last month, according to data from airline Virgin Atlantic.
  • The boss of Virgin Atlantic called the queue times "unacceptable," adding to criticism from the chief executive of British Airways.
Travellers stranded outside the entrances of Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 after British Airways flights were cancelled are seen at Heathrow Airport in west London on May 27, 2017. British Airways said May 27 that it had cancelled all its flights out of major London airports Heathrow and Gatwick after an IT systems failure, warning people not to travel to the congested hubs. People outside the entrances said that they are not being allowed to enter the terminal.
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS | AFP | Getty Images
Travellers stranded outside the entrances of Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 after British Airways flights were cancelled are seen at Heathrow Airport in west London on May 27, 2017. British Airways said May 27 that it had cancelled all its flights out of major London airports Heathrow and Gatwick after an IT systems failure, warning people not to travel to the congested hubs. People outside the entrances said that they are not being allowed to enter the terminal.

Passengers arriving at London's Heathrow Airport had to queue at passport control for up to two-and-a-half hours in July, official figures showed, sparking further criticism from aviation chiefs about delays caused by Britain's border regime.

The Border Force missed its 45-minute or less target for passport check wait times for 95 percent of visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) on all but one day last month, according to the data obtained by UK-based airline Virgin Atlantic.

Queues were longest on July 6 when non-EEA visitors had to wait for up to two hours and 36 minutes at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport.

The boss of Virgin Atlantic called the queue times "unacceptable", adding to criticism from the chief executive of British Airways, who said last week that Heathrow's queues were worse than at other major world airport.

"We all agree that security and safety at our airports is vital and remains our top priority, but other countries are managing their borders more effectively," Virgin Atlantic's chief executive Craig Kreeger said in a statement on Monday.

Britain's interior ministry, responsible for Border Force operations, said it was deploying 200 additional staff at Heathrow this summer, who would all be in place during peak travel periods in August and September.

It said in a statement that it would not compromise on border checks and was working to reduce waiting times.

Heathrow Airport's chief executive John Holland-Kaye last week called on the Home Office to let visitors from low risk countries such as the U.S. use the electronic passport gates which currently are only open to EEA visitors.