Heathrow passengers have been left fuming as they continue to face hour-long queues at border control.
One passenger from Northampton called the situation a ‘joke’ as he posted a video showing crowds waiting at the border last night. He said: ‘Stop the spread they said. Can’t say this is helping at Heathrow T2.’
Others blasted the absence of social distancing on planes where passengers filled all the available seats.
Stacey Nelson, 31, from Wiltshire, shared a video taken by her husband, who did not want to be named, on a packed Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow yesterday.
Seats were completely full on the flight, which is in line with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines, but shocked passengers who found themselves shoulder to shoulder with strangers.
One man from Northampton called the situation a ‘joke’ as he posted a video (pictured) showing crowds waiting at the border last night. He said: ‘Stop the spread they said. Can’t say this is helping at Heathrow T2’
One man’s footage showed hundreds of passengers queuing to get across the border, with most standing together despite social distancing. He said there were only five manned desks and it took 30 minutes for the e-gates to open.
Passengers have been facing significant delays since measures that required them to have a negative Covid test before getting on a plane were introduced. Anyone travelling by air also need to complete a locator form, or face a fine of up to £500.
The man added: ‘I arrived at T2 yesterday on Swiss air LX326 from Zurich via Holland.’
Speaking to MailOnline he said: ‘We got off the plane, walked in and there was this huge queue in front of us. Our flight was fairly full. There was one queue to the left for non EU passengers and the queue I was in for British and it was stationary.
‘I heard a gentleman say “what’s going on” and an official said the gates weren’t open at the moment. He didn’t seem to know why. All the e-gates were shut and four desks were manned.’
When approached for comment by MailOnline, the Home Office said e-gates close to allow border force officials to stringently check for the necessary PCR results and locator documents.
The passenger added: ‘There was only one desk in other section that was manned. I was there for half an hour before they opened the e-gates and then they were checking PCRs and locator forms. But they had all already been checked in Switzerland for our flight. We couldn’t get on the plane otherwise.
‘You’d think they would rush people through because you can’t social distance in that space. It’s too small. It’s not the passengers’ fault, it’s a lack of organisation. Being a British person I found it embarrassing.
‘I was stood there thinking this is a joke. Before the PCR stuff came in there was no queuing at all. You’re stood in a fairly small area surrounded by a couple of hundred people. You’d think they’d have everything set up.’
Mrs Nelson said her husband was shocked when he was surrounded by other passengers because his flight to Heathrow was too full to allow for social distancing.
Stacey Nelson, 31, from Wiltshire, shared a video taken by her husband, who did not want to be named, on a packed Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Heathrow yesterday
She said: ‘My husband has a mask for his work and they said he had to wear a surgical mask. He was next to random people. It was like before covid, people on top of people.
‘He travels away a lot and the flight he went into Germany with was fine he was on his own but on the way back with that airline they were full.
‘Every seat was full. He wondered why he wasn’t on his own. You’re trying to stop it spreading and then you’re sat next to others.’
She said his plane landed at 4.45pm but he didn’t make it out of the airport until 5.30pm as queues built up to get through border force.
‘When he was on the plane they made the passengers queue up section by section to be taken out. There were social distancing signs in the airport but no one was abiding by them and it wasn’t enforced.
Mrs Nelson said her husband was shocked to find he was surrounded by other passengers as the flight was too full to allow for social distancing
‘He was waiting quite a while. He landed at 16.45 and wasn’t travelling back until half 5 so it was quite a while.’
A spokesman for Lufthansa said: ‘Wearing a medical protective mask is obligatory during your stay on board. It is not always possible to maintain a distance of 1.5 meters during a flight, for example on board or at certain points in the airport.
‘However, wearing the protective masks does provide adequate health protection. If the flight has a lower occupancy rate, seats will nevertheless be allocated as far as possible throughout the cabin, with the middle seat usually kept free.
‘With our processes described we are thus ICAO compliant. Actually it is today standard at almost all airlines.’
A Boeing 747 pilot yesterday, with the Twitter username @DeePro, claimed it took an hour and 15 minutes to get through Border Control at Heathrow.
He blasted slow officers and said at one point 15 minutes went by with no officer at the UK border. ‘Terrible procedures at @HeathrowAirportT2 from Passport control @HMRCgovuk – huge queue, no urgency from officers and no officers on duty for British passport holders for over 15 minutes. Are we trying to spread herd immunity on entry?’
Passengers have been facing significant delays since measures were introduced that required them to have a negative Covid test before getting on the plane. Passengers also need to complete a locator form, or face a fine of up to £500. Pictured, Boris Johnson yesterday
He even claimed it was quicker to get through the UK border with a foreign passport, saying: ‘It was an hour quicker to get through passport control with a non UK passport. Minimal queuing, 7 officers at their posts. UK passport, 1 hour 15 minutes and a queue out of the passport hall with 2 agents (at best). As far as risk mitigation is concerned – non existent!’
Emma Moore, Chief Operating Officer at Border Force, said: ‘We are in a global health pandemic which is why every traveller is subject to enhanced monitoring at UK airports in line with the public health measures at the border.
‘Every essential check from pre-departure testing, to the Passenger Locator Form and the suspension of travel routes is to strengthen our borders and prevent the spread of coronavirus into the UK.
‘People should not be travelling unless necessary. Every airport across the UK has a responsibility to comply with social distancing and Covid compliant measures on site.’
It comes after the Government launched new measures to quarantine travellers from a number of countries deemed high-risk for Covid.
Home Secretary Priti Patel declared that Britons returning from around 30 ‘red list’ Covid countries will be forced to quarantine in hotels for 10 days at their own expense.
MailOnline understands that hundreds of arrivals each day are expected to be escorted directly from airports to rooms, where they will have to stay for the duration of their isolation and pay a bill estimated at £1,500 – although ministers hope the numbers will ‘fall through the floor’ as people avoid coming to the UK.
One man’s footage showed hundreds of passengers queuing to get through border force, with most standing close together despite social distancing. He said there were only five manned desks and it took 30 minutes for the e-gates to open
It will only affect British travellers, as foreign citizens who have been in the countries are already banned from entering altogether.
Ms Patel herself is believed to have been pushing for a much tougher regime alongside Matt Hancock and Michael Gove, but was overruled after resistance from Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab and Grant Shapps, and warnings it would ‘kill’ the aviation industry.
Meanwhile, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office have launched adverts warning ‘going on holiday is currently illegal’ amid a clampdown on illicit trips.
A Boeing 747 pilot yesterday, with the Twitter username @DeePro, claimed it took an hour and 15 minutes to get through Border Control at Heathrow (pictured)
Foreign Office officials said the ads, which feature flip-flops and suitcases, are intended to ‘remind people that travelling abroad is against the law’.
Under lockdown rules in place since the start of last month Britons ‘going on a foreign holiday is not a valid reason to leave home,’ one official said, adding that it ‘increases the risk of spreading the virus and puts people in danger’.
Due to border closures caused by Covid-19, Dubai to London was the world’s busiest international route in January with 190,365 scheduled seats this month. In normal times the busiest route to and from London is New York City.
Under the new measures, anyone wanting to leave the UK will also have to complete and present a declaration form at the border stating why their reason for travel is essential.
Border Force and police numbers will be boosted at ports and airports to question outbound passengers.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office launched adverts warning ‘going on holiday is currently illegal’ – amid a clampdown on illicit trips.
Carriers will also be responsible for barring any passengers who don’t have the declaration form or whose reason for travel does not meet Government requirements.
Due to border closures caused by Covid-19, Dubai to London was the world’s busiest international route in January with 190,365 scheduled seats over the month, according to airline data provider OAG.
Asked last week what will constitute ‘essential’ travel under the new rules, senior minister Michael Gove told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think if it’s an essential humanitarian reason, if there is a powerful business reason, we can look at specific case by case reasons why people should travel.
‘But we’re very clear that people should not be travelling abroad to go on holiday, to boost their Instagram profile… [or] for anything other than essential reasons.’
He was asked several times when the new measures will come into force, but failed to answer.
Quarantine hotels to stop more Covid variants getting into the UK ‘won’t be up and running for WEEKS’
Quarantine hotels intended to stop more coronavirus variants from getting into the UK will not be up and running for weeks, it was claimed today.
The squeeze was finally announced by the government last week after intense wrangling between ministers – with Priti Patel and Matt Hancock among those pushing for even tougher action.
But rules forcing all Britons coming from 30 ‘red list’ countries to isolate in hotels for 10 days at their own expense are still not expected to take effect until February 15.
Officials have admitted there are serious logistical issues to the policy, including setting up enough accommodation for the arrivals and making sure it can be guarded.
A plane flies over an hotel at Heathrow Airport. It is not known whether this hotel will be part of the government’s quarantine scheme, which is intended to stop the spread of variants into the UK
The delay comes amid rising fears that the South African variant is already loose in the UK, and other more potent mutant strains could lessen the effectiveness of the vaccine drive.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is facing accusations that he ignored advice from SAGE weeks ago that the borders should be closed.
A paper from the scientific group on January 21 said full closure of the borders was the only way to stop variants spreading.
However, No10 has angrily denied the idea, saying SAGE specifically said the government should not ‘rely’ on travel bans and there was no ‘zero risk’ option available.
Rules forcing all Britons coming from 30 ‘red list’ countries to isolate in hotels for 10 days at their own expense are still not expected to take effect until February 15
Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to Yorkshire yesterday) is facing accusations that he ignored advice from SAGE weeks ago that the borders should be closed
The PM’s aides said the paper called for an ‘effective policy regime including testing and or quarantine/isolation for travellers’. ‘This is the policy step we took,’ one No10 source said.
Prof Calum Semple, a member of SAGE, admitted this morning that Britain was a ‘complex transit country’ and a full border closure was not practical as it would stop food imports.
But he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘In general I do support restricting movement, particularly of people in this time.’
The row comes as a frantic bid to contain the South African strain begins, with specialist teams going door to door to test 80,000 people in areas where the more contagious variant is feared to be spreading.
Scientists are worried the South African strain may be able to evade vaccines and stressed that anyone who suspects they could be infected should self-isolate immediately.