Failures in the e-gate system for passports at UK airports have caused lengthy delays for those arriving in the country as the bank holiday break begins.
Travelers have described on social media that several airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick, are queuing for several hours as arrivals’ passports have to be checked manually rather than on automated machines.
The trouble came as millions were expected to take to the streets and public transport this weekend.
A traveler arriving at Heathrow posted on Twitter: “Just landed in scenes of utter chaos.” 2 hour queues just to get to the real queue. gates broken.’
Another passenger at Gatwick described the situation as “a complete joke”.
A Gatwick Airport spokesman said the problem started on Friday night but by Saturday morning queues had come down.
He said: “Some passengers may experience delays in entry due to a nationwide issue with UK Border Police e-gates.”
“Our staff are working alongside UK Border Police who operate passport control including e-gates to provide assistance to passengers if required.”
Heathrow Airport tweeted: “We are aware of a nationwide issue affecting eGates operated by Border Force.”
“This issue affects a number of ports of entry and does not affect Heathrow.
“Our teams are working closely with Border Force to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and we have additional colleagues on hand to manage queues and ensure passenger welfare.” We apologize for any impact that this has on the passenger journeys.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said Border Police had “robust plans” in place for deploying officers to minimize disruption and wait times.
The automated e-gate system is available to UK citizens over the age of 12 and EU citizens, as well as those from several other countries including Australia, Canada, the US, Japan and New Zealand.
The spokeswoman said on Saturday night the issue had been resolved, adding: “Following a technical failure in the border system which affected the arrival of e-gates in the UK, we can confirm that all e-gates are now operating normally.”
“We thank affected travelers for their patience and staff for their work in resolving the issue.”
The troubles come after British Airways was forced to cancel 175 flights on Thursday and Friday due to an IT outage.
Meanwhile, in Dover, there were long queues and IT problems as well.
The Port of Dover wrote on Twitter: “Thank you for your patience while we catch up on previous border control IT issues that have been resolved.” Traffic across the border is now going well. The average waiting time for cars and buses is now 90 minutes.
The RAC estimates motorists across the UK will make 19.2 million leisure car journeys between Friday and Monday, making it the busiest bank holiday at the end of May since 2019.
Traffic data company Inrix warned that journeys on some sections of the M25 would take up to three times longer than normal.
They extend clockwise from junction 23 for Hatfield to junction 28 for Chelmsford and anti-clockwise towards the Dartford Crossing.
Long delays can also be expected on the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire and Greater Manchester.
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