Furious passengers have blasted Heathrow for huge queues and delays in picking up bags as chaos returns to Britain’s busiest airport.
Livid travellers vented at the ‘shambles’ caused by teaming lines and allegedly a lack of workers this morning as they tried to make it to their flights.
Some said people were getting so hot queuing for hours they had removed their masks and risked spraying Covid over other customers.
Heathrow admitted to ‘longer’ immigration queues but added that staff were ‘working hard to process passengers’.
It comes just weeks after faulty e-gates led to a horrendous backlog at the airport that saw hundreds of people waiting for up to four hours.
Livid travellers vented about the teaming lines and a lack of workers this morning as they tried to make it to their flights
Some said people were getting so hot queuing for hours they had removed their masks and risked spraying Covid over other customers
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One man commented online: ‘@HeathrowAirport please send more officers to the immigration counters here.’
Heathrow replied: ‘We’re aware of longer immigration queues at this time, Border Force are working hard to process passengers. Thank you for your patience.’
Another posted: ‘Hey @HeathrowAirport @British_Airways when will you be delivering luggage of BA172 from JFK? Flight landed at 0836 and arrived at 0846.’
The airport responded: ‘We are sorry to hear about the long wait. Baggage handlers are working hard to process passengers’ bags.’
Valentina Pena said: ‘@HeathrowAirport what happened to improving border agent staffing after the debacle in September?
‘I have been stood in line for over an hour, with multiple passengers beginning to take off their masks around me. Your lack of staffing is causing a serious Covid risk in T5.’
Heathrow commented: ‘We’re aware of longer immigration queues at this time, Border Force are working hard to process passengers.
‘We’re sorry to hear that passengers are removing their masks. Whilst we appreciate that some passengers and colleagues may not be able to wear face coverings, we do expect all to be wearing these where possible.’
But she hit back: ‘Unfortunately it seems people are removing their face coverings out of boredom / frustration at standing in line for nearly 2h with little progress. If wait times can’t be improved might there at least be a way of enforcing your own policies?’
The airport said: ‘Heathrow staff will be enforcing the rules that are in place that includes face masks being worn when possible.’
Paul Johnson said: ‘@HeathrowAirport bags delivered as the status for 15 minutes now and no sign of them. Is this shambles normal?’
The company replied: ‘We are sorry to hear about the longer wait times for your bags. If you are concerned about the status of your baggage please speak to your airline.’
Peter Martin put: ‘@HeathrowAirport what is happening in the car park , trying to get out, on level 3 and have not moved for 30 mins!!!!!!’
Another wrote: ‘Why can’t we exit T3 short stay car park? We haven’t moved for 15 mins?’ And one more added: ‘Rocked up to T3 Short Stay for a PCR test so I can travel … been sat in a queue to find a parking space for almost an hour … what is going on ?!’
Heathrow said: ‘We are sorry to hear about the delay. Please speak to traffic marshals who will be located in the car park if you have any concerns about the current situation.’
It added: ‘We are currently experiencing delays in our car parks. Our teams are working hard to let passengers through the barriers, we apologise for any inconvenience caused.’
Ramya Mure added: ‘Had the worst experience at @HeathrowAirport today with TSA. They were rude and would not let me carry most of my toiletries even though they were under 100ml because they didn’t fit into a tiny bag. Most other airports don’t seem to care and staff is courteous. Very disappointed.’
Pictures showed long crowds packed into cramped corridors as they waited to be processed at the airport this morning.
Others showed a stream of passengers – mostly wearing face coverings – marching past flight gates as they tried to get to their planes.
The chaos today was reportedly caused by ‘logistical problems’ leading to waits of up to an hour to collect baggage.
A spokesman for Heathrow said it was not an ‘infrastructure issue from our side’ and pointed to the airline handlers. British Airways has been contacted for comment.
Last month Heathrow was in the grip of border bedlam as hundreds of infuriated travellers were forced to wait up to four hours at arrivals in Terminals 3 and 5.
The huge queues were sparked by an e-gates crash, which was the second time in two weeks. Passengers estimated there were more than a thousand people waiting at the immigration centre.
Heathrow said at the time the e-gates broke down due to a ‘national systems-wide issue’. The airport even appeared to blame Border Force, saying their staff managed e-gates at ports across the country.
Earlier this week British Airways’ owner threatened to pull out of Heathrow over the airport’s plans to hike charges and send the cost of family holidays soaring.
The warning shot was fired by Luis Gallego, CEO of BA owner IAG, over Heathrow’s plans to hike passenger charges by up to 76 per cent.
It would see them increase from the current £19.60 to up to £34.40, potentially adding £75 to the cost of a foreign holiday for a family of five. The costs are charged to airlines but usually passed on to passengers.
Mr Gallego said the fees charged by the UK’s largest airport were already among the highest in the world and that IAG would ‘reconsider’ using Heathrow if its planned hike goes ahead.
He predicted other airlines could also cut services to and from the UK’s largest airport.
He said: ‘Heathrow is becoming more and more expensive for airline operators to use. It’s already 44 per cent more expensive than its European competitors.
‘It has some of the highest landing charges of any airport in the world. And now, operators could face a [more than] 50 per cent increase in fees…A decision that would make the UK not more competitive, but less.’
Earlier this week British Airways’ owner threatened to pull out of Heathrow over the airport’s plans to hike charges and send the cost of family holidays soaring (file photo)
He added: ‘Heathrow’s leading position is not inevitable. The reality is, more than 40 per cent of the people who use Heathrow are connecting passengers.
‘They are simply passing through, on their way to other destinations, and could easily go via other, more competitive hubs.
‘Hiking charges will not help. It will not attract demand. It will have the opposite effect.
‘And if the rise in landing charges goes ahead I know IAG would not be alone in reconsidering our airlines’ use of Heathrow as a port.’
BA is one of a handful of airlines which exclusively use Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
But it is set to start a new unit offering European flights from London Gatwick in March next year.
Mr Gallego was speaking at an industry summit hosted by Airlines UK, which represents all major UK carriers.
Former BA chief Willie Walsh, who runs trade body the International Air Transport Association, said Heathrow would be ‘shooting itself in the foot’ if passenger charges increase.
‘Pushing up charges to such a high level will just push people away from Heathrow,’ he added.
Heathrow’s seven billionaire owners include the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar, Singapore and China.
It has paid out about £4billion in dividends since 2012 and has said it could restart payouts next year, after pausing them over the pandemic, if its debts come under control. Heathrow bases its charges on the numbers using the airport.
It expects around 40million passengers next year, compared to 80million before the pandemic, and said this means each passenger must pay more to cover the shortfall.
The airport’s wish to increase charges is subject to a Civil Aviation Authority review which will make a decision on whether the increase can go ahead next year.
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said Heathrow’s proposed fee hike would threaten the viability of its expansion project.
But Heathrow hit back last night, accusing airlines of hiking airline fees for Christmas, with 2021 bookings closing in on pre-pandemic levels now most foreign travel restrictions have been dropped.
A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘A £10 to £15 increase in airport charges is not comparable to pushing up economy-class tickets to the US to over £2,000 this Christmas, which is what some airlines are doing.
‘It’s true that Heathrow is proposing a higher pandemic price increase than continental airports, but we are neither state-owned nor have we received billions in state aid during the crisis – we rely entirely on private investment.
‘Heathrow passengers want a reliable, quality experience. The higher charge will enable us to deliver key investments in the next five years to protect passenger service.’
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