A Daily news digest by Jasper van Santen

London 2012 Olympics: chaos hits Heathrow as Games approach – Telegraph

In News, Really?!? on July 1, 2012 at 20:48

London 2012 Olympics: chaos hits Heathrow as Games approach 

Angry passengers reported queuing for nearly two and a half hours last week – with some starting far outside the immigration hall – to be met with empty passport control desks and uninterested staff.

Labour on Sunday night warned the Government it had to get a grip of the “immediate crisis brewing less than four weeks before the Olympics”.

BAA, which runs Heathrow, admitted that target times for passengers passing through immigration were missed.

Union officials warned of a doomsday scenario caused by the “triple whammy” of fewer fully trained staff, an influx of holiday passengers, and Olympic crowds.

An extra 650,000 passengers are expected to pass though the airport during the Games.

BAA said visitor numbers were starting to increase in line with the holiday season, and Olympic athletes and delegations were also arriving.

On Friday passengers at Terminal 4 were stuck in half-mile queues, starting long before they even got to the immigration hall.

They said that once they got there, two out of three desks were not manned and immigration officers “talked among themselves” while ignoring passenger demands to know what was causing the delays.

Officials were also seen trying to prevent passengers taking photographs of the chaos as an estimated 4,000 people waited in line.

Eye recognition technology – Iris – was not available to many passengers, and some could not use the E-passport queues.

One businessman, who was waiting in the non-EU line, told The Daily Telegraph that he was forced to wait more than two and a quarter hours on Friday after returning to Britain from Italy.

The man, who did not want to be named, arrived on an Alitalia flight from Milan, just after 8.30am, but did not get though immigration until after 11am.

He said: “I have never seen anything like it. If they think they are going to be ready for the Olympics, which is now less than a month away, then this was a very poor training exercise – and it wasn’t even busy.”

BAA target times are 45 mins for non-EU passengers and 25 mins for those with UK and EU passports.

The company said that over a two-hour period on Friday morning queue times were on average 1hr 30 mins. There were similar problems later that day and also during busier periods on Saturday.

With the eyes of the world on London, senior politicians are dreading a repeat of the scenes in April which led to the situation being called a national embarrassment in a report by MPs.

 

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