London Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport, has called for exceptions to be made for American, Australian and Canadian passengers at airport immigration in a bid to cut down on long waiting times. The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, has called on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to loosen the rules that require them to use the non-EU passenger line, also giving them the right to use one of the 60 British and EU e-gates that “you’ll never see all in use”.
As reported in The Guardian, Holland-Kaye suggested that US citizens posed no more of a risk than EU citizens and therefore should be allowed to use the same queuing system. “There’s no reason we should treat a passenger from the US any differently from one from Lithuania. “If the Americans aren’t considered safe then no one is – they’re at least as safe as our European partners,” he said to the paper.
Should US citizens be extended the same privileges, they would find themselves in the same situation as Switzerland, a non-EU country that is still able to use the EU immigration queue.
Holland-Kaye said that the date when the UK is set to officially leave the EU should be used as an opportunity to relax the regulations at Heathrow (and, presumably, other airports in the UK), to make border crossings more efficient. “What better way on 30 March to show the world has changed than have Americans, Canadians and Australians use the e-gates? You know who is coming to your country, why do we need to treat everyone like a criminal when they get to the border?” he asked.
The issue of long waiting times at Heathrow hit the news hit the news earlier this month during the World Cup, when the airport’s chief executive said that passengers were forced to wait for three hours as a result of low staffing levels. That situation prompted him to accuse Border Force, the UK government department responsible for frontline border operations, of a failure of leadership.
Transport Security World reported this week of an area of Heathrow’s immigration process that could speed up the process at the beginning of the journey, with the introduction of next-generation X-ray scanners that can see recognises what is inside baggage without it having to be opened. The systems has already been successfully tested in Amsterdam’s Schipol airport and New York’s John F Kennedy airports; Heathrow will test for between six and 12 months.
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