Travel News

Heathrow UK Border Force strike begins – but no one seems to notice

Simon Calder’s Travel

The first arrivals at London Heathrow on day one of a strike by UK Border Force have reported no problems getting through passport control.

More than 300 PCS union members working for UK Border Force have walked out for four days, from 29 April to 2 May.

The strike coincides with the introduction of a new roster that, the union says, means 250 members will be being forced out of their current jobs on passport control.

The PCS said: “Members are committed to the action and expect that their walkouts will disrupt passport checks for travellers coming into the UK at Heathrow airport.”

But interviews with a sample of travellers arriving on the Heathrow Express at London Paddington station identified no problems with passport control.

Angie, a Delta passenger from Boston, told The Independent: “It was kind of ridiculously easy – no people in front of me. I put my passport down [for the eGate], it beeped and I was through.”

Other passengers told similar stories. A male passenger from Dubai with Emirates said: “It couldn’t have been easier. I went straight through. I wasn’t aware of any issues.”

A traveller from Dallas on American Airlines said he was impressed with the “super-fast” progress through passport control.

Most of the passengers The Independent met had been through Terminal 3. A woman who had arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 on British Airways from Hong Kong reported passport control was “very smooth”.

Passengers from the UK, the European Union, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and Singapore can use the eGates at the airport.

It is possible that travellers arriving at Terminal 4, which has a higher proportion of passengers who cannot use eGates, will face longer waits.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are disappointed with the union’s decision to strike but remain open to discussing a resolution with PCS union.

“The changes we are implementing will bring the working arrangements for Border Force Heathrow staff in line with the way staff work at all other major ports, provide them with more certainty on working patterns, and improve the service to the travelling public.

“We have robust plans in place to minimise disruption where possible, but we urge passengers to check the latest advice from operators before they travel.”

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