Eleven airline companies, including British Airways and Vigin Airlines, have written to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, grumbling about lengthy queues at passport control for incoming passengers at British airports.
The companies are asking for the minister to beef up the number of Border Agency staff on duty to vet travellers, as queues lengthen as a consequence of more rigorous passport checks recently introduced by the Home Office.
The request comes ahead of the Easter week-end, always one of the busiest periods for airports. Around 1.5m holidaymakers are expected to jet off for foreign climes over the Easter week-end, with Heathrow alone handling some 370,000 passengers and Gatwick 200,000.
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Virgin Atlantic has sent a memo to parliament's Home Affairs select committee has warned of gridlock at the UK's commercial airports as a result of the introduction in November 2011 of 100% passport verification for incoming travellers, "irrespective of any checks or procedures which they or their passenger information may have gone through before, or as part of their journey."
The move also "disregards any intelligence or behaviour led profiling and treats every traveller as a potential risk to the UK border," the Virgin Atlantic memo asserts.
Virgin Atlantic notes that the UK Border Force has been "streamlined" in recent years "with 25% fewer border officers and an increasing emphasis on technology such as passenger e-gates."
"We fear that this level of resource is incompatible with a return to 100% checks and if left unaddressed will cause congestion at UK airports," the memo continued.
The memo appears to have struck a chord with Keith Vaz, Chairman of the House of Commons' Home Affairs select committee, who suggested that lengthy queues could become a "national embarrassment".
It is a situation that the British Air Transport Association (BATA) is anxious to avoid.
"We don't want to see queues at airports. It's bad for passengers and for UK plc to see long queues at passport control," said Simon Buck, the Chief Executive of the BATA.
Buck said the BATA is looking for reassurance from the Home Office that the Border Force will be properly resourced.
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