Virgin Atlantic has called for action to reduce immigration queues at London Heathrow Airport as says international visitors are having to wait for up two hours 34 minutes to clear passport control.
The carrier says high profile events such as the Royal Wedding and the favourable exchange rate have contributed to increased international visits in 2018, and coupled with an under resourced Border Force has led to “excessively” long queue times at immigration.
Virgin Atlantic said it has seen US passenger numbers increase by 20 per cent, and is calling for urgent action to reduce the waiting times and extend the warm welcome visitors deserve.
The airline has 23 international arrivals per day into London Heathrow and has set up a “greet and treat” service for customers – providing water and snacks – to try and improve the experience.
The UK Border Force has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to process at least 95 per cent of non-EEA passengers, such as those from the US or China, through immigration within 45 minutes.
In July, the airline said there was only one day when this target was met, and the longest queue time occurred on 6 July when non EEA visitors spent up to two hours 34 minutes waiting in immigration queues.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive officer, Craig Keeger (pictured above) said: “This summer significant queues at Border Control mean that thousands of visitors have faced two hour queues to get their passports checked, leaving them frustrated before they’ve even started their trip.
“At Virgin Atlantic we’re doing our bit to try and help our international customers –providing extra staff, as well as drinks and snacks for the queue – but only the Border Force can resolve these unacceptable queue times and they must take action.
“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. 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.”