British pilots demanded face to face discussions with the Prime Minister on Saturday after “shambolic” scenes at Heathrow Airport saw thousands of passengers facing a five-hour wait to get through immigration and across the UK border. The situation became so unbearable on Friday night that some passengers reportedly fainted as lines of people snaked through tunnels and hallways across the airport.
“Five-hour queues at the border are not the fault of Border Force staff on duty,” the respected BALPA pilots union said on Saturday. “They are the fault of the Government’s shambolic border rules with wholly overblown and complex requirements for testing and quarantine,” a statement from the union continued.
“These are then made more difficult by complex traffic light systems and a plethora of private sector, rip off, unregulated testing companies.” The union represents pilots at British Airways, easyJet and a number of other carriers.
Heathrow Airport blamed the long lines on Border Force, saying that immigration officers had been tasked by Home Secretary Priti Patel with checking paperwork like pre-departure test certificates and passenger locator forms.
The Home Office, which manages Border Force, called the scenes at Heathrow “unacceptable” but said it had warned passengers all summer that wait times would be longer than normal because additional pandemic checks were in operation.
But the BALPA unions wants to meet with Priti Patel, along with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an attempt to “talk some sense into them”.
“The Government needs to face up to its inadequacies, demonstrated repeatedly by events on the ground, and sit down with BALPA and other travel industry unions and trade bodies to find a practical, workable way forward,” blasted BALPA acting general secretary Martin Chalk.
The union would like the government to roll back many of its pandemic travel rules, including scrapping expensive PCR tests and a myriad of traffic light restrictions for different countries.
Airlines fear demand will plunge during the winter months and they’ll be left with too many staff that they can’t afford to pay due to continuing restrictions. A generous furlough scheme will finish at the end of September and Sunak has refused pleas from BALPA, other unions and the airlines to continue the financial support.
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.