Britain’s aviation regulator has dished out 630 fines since February 11 to airlines that failed to check passengers had the correct pandemic paperwork before flying to the UK, the Department for Transport said on Tuesday. The fines amount to at least £1.26 million ($1.75 million), although regulators didn’t name which airlines had been slapped with the fines.
All passengers entering England must complete a pandemic ‘passenger locator form’ and provide proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test. Most passengers also have to provide proof of a post-arrival testing package and arrivals from high-risk ‘Red List’ countries must also prove they’ve booked a quarantine hotel.
The British government has blamed passengers who haven’t completed the myriad of paperwork correctly for lengthy queues at the border which in some cases have stretched on for six hours or more.
Chris Garton, chief solutions officer at Heathrow International Airport told a parliamentary committee last week that the “situation is becoming untenable” and said police were regularly being called to deal with disputes at the border.
But the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says it is up to airlines to check passengers have completed all the paperwork correctly before they are allowed to even get on a plane bound for England.
Airlines face a £2,000 fine for every passenger they carry that hasn’t got a valid pre-departure test certificate, as well as an additional £2,000 fine for every passenger who hasn’t completed their Passenger Locator Form correctly.
An even heftier fine of £4,000 can be imposed on airlines who fail to correctly inform passengers about the requirements on four separate occasions – including at check-in and once onboard.
The chief executives of British Airways and easyJet have called on the British government to urgently develop tools that will help reduce queues at the border, fearing carnage when international non-essential travel is permitted again from May 17.
Border Force has refused to apologise for the lengthy queues saying the 100 per cent compliance checks are necessary to keep the public safe.
Mobile apps, touted as vaccination passports, being developed by the aviation industry could help alleviate wait times if they are able to quickly and accurately validate that passengers have complied with all entry requirements. The IATA Travel Pass app is still in testing phase with a growing number of airlines.
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Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.