Pregnant women and pensioners complain of FIVE hour queues at Heathrow Airport amid travel chaos – Daily Mail

Frustrated British holidaymakers have been subjected to another day of queueing chaos at Heathrow airport, as they claim to have been crammed into hallways with no social distancing and made to walk long distances with no shuttles available.

Passengers, including pregnant women, pensioners and young children, were made to stand in long queues of ‘three to five hours’ into the early hours of the morning amid further disarray at border control at Europe’s busiest airport. 

Pictures shared with MailOnline showed long snaking lines of hundreds of people packed together tightly, as elderly and more vulnerable passengers wilted amid an unapologetic stance adopted by the Home Office, who blame understaffing for the travel mayhem. 

The chaotic scenes have been compounded by the fact families with children aged under-12 are unable to use E-gates at Heathrow, while others, including elderly travellers, warn of lengthy queues of ‘three to five hour’ to pass through immigration.

Furious passengers say they’ve been left ‘stranded’ and crammed into the airport’s hallways with no access to water, ventilation or toilets as they were forced to stand in long queues well into the early hours of Friday morning.

Travel firms have previously warned that the length queues were damaging to Britain’s image and risked putting off future visitors – as the country’s grandiose plans for reopening to the world appear to be in tatters.

It comes as Tory MPs yesterday joined the growing backlash around continuing border chaos at Heathrow overseen by Grant Shapps and Priti Patel – as arrivals have been forced to wait for hours for a fifth consecutive day.    

Furious passengers say they've been left 'stranded' and crammed into Heathrow airport's hallways with no access to water, ventilation or toilets as they were forced to stand in long queues well into the early hours of Friday morning

Furious passengers say they've been left 'stranded' and crammed into Heathrow airport's hallways with no access to water, ventilation or toilets as they were forced to stand in long queues well into the early hours of Friday morning

Furious passengers say they’ve been left ‘stranded’ and crammed into Heathrow airport’s hallways with no access to water, ventilation or toilets as they were forced to stand in long queues well into the early hours of Friday morning

Pictures shared with MailOnline showed long snaking lines of hundreds of people packed together tightly waiting at border control, as elderly and more vulnerable passengers wilted

Pictures shared with MailOnline showed long snaking lines of hundreds of people packed together tightly waiting at border control, as elderly and more vulnerable passengers wilted

Pictures shared with MailOnline showed long snaking lines of hundreds of people packed together tightly waiting at border control, as elderly and more vulnerable passengers wilted

Passengers, including pregnant women, pensioners and young children, were made to stand in long queues of 'three to five hours' into the early hours of the morning amid further disarray at border control at Europe's busiest airport

Passengers, including pregnant women, pensioners and young children, were made to stand in long queues of 'three to five hours' into the early hours of the morning amid further disarray at border control at Europe's busiest airport

Passengers, including pregnant women, pensioners and young children, were made to stand in long queues of ‘three to five hours’ into the early hours of the morning amid further disarray at border control at Europe’s busiest airport

Heathrow airport queue chaos

Heathrow airport queue chaos

Heathrow airport queueing

Heathrow airport queueing

Raging travellers took to social media to vent their frustrations at Heathrow Airport and UK Border Force, as the Home Office adopted an unapologetic stance and blamed staff shortages for long queues

Pictures taken yesterday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK

Pictures taken yesterday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK

Meanwhile, e-gates were hardly used

Meanwhile, e-gates were hardly used

Pictures taken yesterday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK, (left) as e-gates were hardly used 

Home Secretary Priti Patel

Home Secretary Priti Patel

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary

Under pressure: Home Secretary Priti Patel – who oversees border force – and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary 

The latest pictures taken yesterday showed snaking lines of frustrated passengers waiting to enter the UK, in scenes that are now wearily familiar due to Border Force failing to tackle an issue that has been going on all summer. 

One furious traveller told MailOnline: ‘The queues have been three to five hours long for immigration.

‘I landed in Terminal 5 and the transit train wasn’t working so we had to walk in a tunnel for about 20 minutes with no ventilation.

‘We’ve been in a queue for two to three hours already, but some have been told the wait is up to five hours – with families and babies stuck in the queue.’

Another person said: ‘There are massive queues at Terminal 5 again.

‘Really young children and old people had to walk the full walkway as shuttle trains are out of service, and there are no toilets between the gates and passport control.

‘No water. No social distancing. Supposedly the UK is a first world country, but not by this measure.

‘Absolute incompetence from UK border force and Heathrow airport. Run an airport? They don’t have enough competence and intelligence to run a bath.’ 

Fire engines flood Gatwick runway after hydraulics fluid spills from EasyJet plane  

Fire engines flooded the runway at Gatwick Airport this afternoon after an EasyJet plane suffered a hydraulics problem. 

The captain told passengers hydraulics fluid had spilled onto the runway and needed to be hosed off. This left passengers on the jet, from Split in Croatia, stranded onboard while they waited for the operation to finish. 

‘It sounded like the wheels wouldn’t come down,’ a passenger told MailOnline. ‘As soon as we landed the plane came to a halt on the runway and loads of fire engines appeared.’ 

The passenger later added: ‘We weren’t stranded on there long… but the noise as they tried to put the wheels down when we came into land was alarming. It took a lot longer than normal and was really laboured and screechy.’ 

The extent of the disruption to other flights is not yet clear. 

Gatwick Airport said: ‘Gatwick’s runway was temporarily unavailable between 1530 and 1543 while the runway was inspected and treated following a small leak of hydraulic fluid from an easyJet aircraft – EZYA396 from Spilt. The runway became available again shortly after and flights are operating as normal.’ 

A picture taken by a passenger showed a fire engine next to the plane as it hosed hydraulic fluid off the runway

A picture taken by a passenger showed a fire engine next to the plane as it hosed hydraulic fluid off the runway

A picture taken by a passenger showed a fire engine next to the plane as it hosed hydraulic fluid off the runway 

Yesterday, ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith called the scenes at arrivals ‘madness’, telling MailOnline: ‘We are going to achieve the worst of all worlds by having people close together who may have Covid. The whole thing is chaotic and we still haven’t fully opened up yet. We don’t seem to have a plan for how we are going to manage that.

‘If it carries on like this Heathrow will cease to be a hub airport and Britain will be left in the backwash as an irrelevant country. Having already jabbed such a large percentage of the population we have to get on with things.’   

James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire, asked: ‘What the hell is going on? This is totally unacceptable and I find it deeply embarrassing that the United Kingdom in the 21st century cannot get people into Britain faster than this.’   

The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week. But the Home Office – which has repeatedly pinned the problem on understaffing – has maintained an unapologetic stance despite widespread fury from the public and senior travel industry figures.  

One passenger tweeted yesterday: ‘Chaos at Heathrow airport Terminal 4. Four hrs waiting to go through immigration. Families with children, pregnant ladies & old folks everyone had to wait. Is that human?’ 

A second wrote: ‘Passport control at Terminal 5: Empty e-gates. Yet families with kids under 12 have to queue for 2 hours. Two desks open to UK citizens, kids and babies are screaming #disgrace.’ 

The Home Office disputed this figure, with a spokesman citing Border Force statistics that the lengthiest queue at Terminal 5 yesterday was 1 hour 15 mins.

Under-12 cannot use e-gates due to limitations with the facial recognition technology, meaning families with young children have to use manned desks. 

Today Mr Duncan-Smith, the former Tory leader, urged the government to come up with a new solution to the chaos, saying Border Force could remove the need to spend time processing Covid paperwork by introducing sniffer dogs trained to detect Covid. 

‘The NHS has already done phase one of a trial for medical detection dogs, which has shown they are already almost at the level of a PCR test when it comes to Covid,’ he said. 

‘That would indicate who has it immediately, at which point they can be taken out of the queue and sent for a full PCR.

‘But the NHS, having done the first phase of the trial, has now refused point blank to do the second phase at airports. We are seeing these queues now but this trial has been completed months ago.

‘They could easily by now have dogs deployed at airports very accurately detecting Covid but the NSH has failed to complete the trial.’ 

North Wiltshire MP James Gray called for Border Force officials to be hauled in front of a select committee.

He told MailOnline: ‘People coming into the country who aren’t British must have had the most appalling experience.

‘Someone needs to get a grip of this. I’d like to know how many people Border Force has altogether, how many are self-isolating and how many people are on the rota at peak times?

‘People know when flights are coming in so it can’t be acceptable that there are only two guards on duty.

‘We need to get Border Force in front of the select committee and the government to do a review of Border Force per se.

‘And the ridiculous carry on with e-gates is farcical. E-gates have been around now for years. Why haven’t we sorted it?’ 

A spokesman said earlier this week that travellers would ‘need to accept’ increased wait times due to high summer demand and the need to check Covid documents. 

It comes as fire engines flooded the runway at Gatwick Airport this afternoon after an EasyJet plane suffered a hydraulics problem. 

The captain told passengers hydraulics fluid had spilled onto the runway and needed to be hosed off. This left passengers on the jet, from Split in Croatia, stranded onboard while they waited for the operation to finish. 

‘It sounded like the wheels wouldn’t come down,’ a passenger told MailOnline. ‘As soon as we landed the plane came to a halt on runway and loads of fire engines appeared.’  

An image taken by a second passenger yesterday. The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week

An image taken by a second passenger yesterday. The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week

An image taken by a second passenger yesterday. The latest bout of queueing chaos began on Sunday and has been repeated every day this week

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter

Two passengers who were caught up in the queues at Heathrow yesterday shared their anger on Twitter. The Home Office disputed first figure, with a spokesman citing Border Force statistics that the lengthiest queue at Terminal 5 yesterday was 1 hour 15 mins

Departures at Heathrow Terminal 2 this morning, where there were large queues for the check-in desks

Departures at Heathrow Terminal 2 this morning, where there were large queues for the check-in desks

Departures at Heathrow Terminal 2 this morning, where there were large queues for the check-in desks

Heathrow’s summer of queuing chaos: So when WILL the government get a grip? 

May 17 – Passengers flying into the UK faced ‘bedlam’ at the border with some facing a three hour wait at the Heathrow passport gates. Travellers told MailOnline how they were ‘terrified of catching Covid’ while being crammed into the airport’s border hall this morning.

July 12 – Passengers said they had ‘never seen anything like’ the queues at Heathrow Terminal 5 as officials blamed the scenes on staff having to self-isolate. A passenger said: ‘Total chaos at security at Heathrow airport T5 this morning. Never seen anything like it.’ 

July 20 – 90-minute queues were seen at arrivals after the government failed to update Passenger Locator Forms ahead of its ‘Freedom Day’ rule changes – resulting in double-jabbed Britons being rejected at e-gates.  

August 2 – Queues of passengers stretched the entire length of Terminal 5. Officials again blamed staff having to self-isolate. A spokesman quoted figures showing that one in four Border Force guards were reported to be off sick with Covid or self-isolating. 

29 – Three-hour waits were reported at passport control. A day later the Home Office risked fury as it said passengers ‘need to accept’ the risk of delays at peak times. 

30 – One passenger describes the immigration process in Terminal 2 as ‘incompetent and ridiculous’, adding that he was forced to wait for more than five hours with ‘no water, no bathroom’

31 – One traveller wrote on Twitter that a queue for families with children had lasted three hours.

September 1 –  Pictures and video from around midday showed long snaking lines of travellers packed closely together with no social distancing, as some aired themselves with leaflets in an attempt to stay cool. 

2 – Yet more chaos with waits of up to four hours. 

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union.

He tweeted a picture taken two hours into the queuing process, with hundreds of people still in front of him in the line.

On Tuesday, one traveller wrote on Twitter that a queue for families with children had lasted three hours.

Another described the wait for families as ‘shameful’, adding that the UK ‘must be the only country which treats families worse than adults’.

On Monday a passenger said the immigration process in Terminal 2 was ‘incompetent, ridiculous’, adding that he was forced to wait for more than five hours with ‘no water, no bathroom’.

This morning there were mixed reports from Heathrow, with one passenger saying the border at Terminal 5 was ‘completely clear’ while another reported a half an hour wait to get to a desk. 

Heathrow tweeted that Border Force is ‘currently experiencing some delays as they conduct additional spot checks to ensure passenger compliance with the UK Government’s latest entry requirements’.

It went on: ‘Waiting times at the border have on occasion been unacceptable and we have called on the UK Government to address the problem as a matter of urgency.’

Yesterday, travel firms told MailOnline the length queues were damaging to Britain’s image and risked putting off future visitors.

Clive Wratten CEO of the Business Travel Association (BTA), described the scenes as ‘very worrying’. 

He said: ‘As the world continues to open up safely, it is essential that there is enough staff and support at all points of a journey. 

‘The travel experience needs to be as frictionless and consistent as possible to give all travellers the confidence they need to return in large numbers.’ 

Jacqueline Dobson, President of Barrhead Travel, which describes itself as the UK’s leading independent British travel agents, said: ‘From a visitor perspective, arriving into Heathrow is the first impression many will get of the UK – and first impressions matter.’  

The issue has been exacerbated by a shortage of Border Force agents and many going into self-isolation for Covid.

But earlier this week a senior Tory MP insisted the issues should have been addressed ‘a long time ago’.

‘This has been a constant problem throughout the pandemic and I appreciate the Home Office may have had difficulties recruiting to the Border Force but that is not a new problem,’ the MP told MailOnline.

‘They should have addressed this a long time ago. It adds to travel uncertainty and it is not good for the travel industry or the travelling public. The Border Force needs to be better organised.’

There have also been widespread complaints about British Airways operations at Terminal 5 and the management of the airport as whole, with passengers reporting lengthy delays to disembarkation and luggage pick up. Pictured: T2 departures

There have also been widespread complaints about British Airways operations at Terminal 5 and the management of the airport as whole, with passengers reporting lengthy delays to disembarkation and luggage pick up. Pictured: T2 departures

There have also been widespread complaints about British Airways operations at Terminal 5 and the management of the airport as whole, with passengers reporting lengthy delays to disembarkation and luggage pick up. Pictured: T2 departures

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union

On Wednesday, journalist Guy Faulconbridge compared the scenes that met him after touching down in the UK to the dying days of the Soviet Union

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Our utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public and we will never compromise on security, and on ensuring passengers are compliant with the current health measures, which means passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border.

‘The rollout of upgrades to our eGates to automate checks for health requirements is ongoing, with many eGates already in operation and more to be added over the coming months to increase automated checks on passengers at airports.

‘However, for safeguarding reasons families with children under the age of 12 are not permitted to use the eGates.

‘Where there are high volumes of families with young children, such as over the summer holidays, Border Force may dynamically deploy resources to frontline desks instead and we continue to flexibly deploy our staff to make the process as smooth as possible.’ 

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