Wait times in passport control lines at London’s Heathrow Airport reached 2 1/2 hours in July, official figures show.
The Border Force missed the 45-minute wait target for 95 percent of visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), on all but one day last month.
The EEA is made up of 31 European countries.
The figures, obtained by the British airline Virgin Atlantic, reveal that the longest wait time was on July 6, when passengers spent 2 hours and 38 minutes waiting in immigration queues.
The government said it would send an extra 200 staff to Heathrow over the summer.
Craig Kreeger, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, said that security and safety are a top priority but pointed out that other countries are managing their borders more effectively.
“At a time when the UK needs to show the world it is open for business, the government and Border Force need to provide a great first impression, for every visitor, every time,” he said.
He said that “only the Border Force” could resolve the queue times and “they must take action.”
‘Two-Hour Queues Are Becoming The Norm’
Alex Cruz, CEO and chairman of British Airways said last week the lines at Heathrow are “significantly worse” than many other major airports around the world.
In a letter to the British newspaper The Times, Cruz wrote, “Two-hour queues are fast becoming the norm for those visiting from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), despite a target of no more than a 45-minute wait. Even EEA citizens wait almost an hour.”
Heathrow’s boss John Holland-Kaye recently called on the Home Office to let “low-risk” passengers like Americans use electronic gates to enter the UK.
A Home Office representative said, “The vast majority of people who arrive at Heathrow get through the border within our service standards.
“But we understand the frustration for those who have experienced longer waits and remain fully committed to working with our partners to reduce waiting times as far as is possible. At the same time, we will not compromise the essential checks we carry out at the border, which keep our country safe. We are making sure Border Force has the resources it needs and are deploying 200 additional staff at Heathrow over the summer.”
According to Visit Britain, 76 percent of tourists arrive in the UK by air, and they account for 87 percent of inbound tourist spending.
The Home Office said that most passengers arriving at Heathrow between January and June this year were within the time limits, which is 25 minutes for people from the EEA and 45 minutes for those outside the EEA.