Heathrow chaos due to revamp and 15% cut in staff, independent report finds | Travel | The Guardian

London Heathrow, Terminal 5, London, England

London Heathrow, Terminal 5, London, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a good article from the Guardian and will be of interest to all travellers into or out of UK airports. Check it out!

Heathrow chaos due to revamp and 15% cut in staff, independent report finds | Travel | The Guardian.

Compared to the likes of Hong Kong or Bangkok, it never ceases to amaze me quite how bad UK airports actually are. This is a regulated industry, so ultimately it comes down to politicians to drive improvements in services, in my view.


One response

  1. Having been in both Shanghai and Hong Kong airports recently and in Milan Linate for each of the past five years both Heathrow and Gatwick are monuments to inefficiency and have been for some years.

    Part of the present problem is down to faults and failures with the E-Borders system which BT Global Services and the American defence contractor Raytheon put in.

    It was supposed to, to quote the Labour Home Office Minister Dr John Reid who said that the Home Office in his time all those years ago was “Not fit for purpose”, to “Count people in and count them out”.

    It cannot of course do this because the E-Borders machines were introduced before all UK passports had chips put into them to enable them to become machine readable.

    Thus when my sister and I travel to Italy to see relatives I have to wait for someone from the Border Control Agency to look at my passport whilst my sister has to fumble with the E-Borders machine and Swede’s can’t because it cannot “read” their passports.


    Secondly, as reported in the Daily Telegraph is the fact that Borders Agency staff have been deliberately checking white people unnecessarily so that the Agency cannot be accused of disproportionate stopping, checking and delaying Muslims.


    Third is the question of rostering.

    Borders Agency staff, like nurses in the NHS are not too few in number but they are rostered in such a way that there are never enough of them there at the times when planes come in thus queues build up.


    Wherever I go I wear a stopwatch and in airport queues and restaurants take the trouble to use it to time how long
    various operations take.

    As a management consultant, interim manager and corporate troubleshooter for more than 22 years, I have learnt how to do this without being obvious and use the data, sometimes accompanied by video footage from my Blackberry to make points and occasionally confront issues around performance at a granular level.

    At Shanghai and Hong Kong their security staff, scanned passports in a fast and efficient manner and spotters moved people from one queue to another to stop it building up. The process took about 30 seconds with no more than a 5% difference between one security person and another.

    At Milan Linate, even at the height of Summer, when the air conditioning was under pressure and once when my younger brother came with me with his titanium hip replacement (cancer treatment had shattered the bone),
    the process took about 55 seconds with no more than 10% difference between a surly and slow security apparachik and one working at normal speed.

    At Heathrow and Gatwick, it is as if one had entered another age.

    First one has to walk for what appears to be miles from the aircraft to a long and convoluted series of passageways before one reaches border control and then the nonsense begins.

    One security guard I observed on one trip took 2.5 minutes per British Passport, holding them up to the light, feeling the pages and even turning them.

    It did not matter to him whether it was a 90 year old grandmother, a mother with very young children or a young fit man.
    Often these Border Agency security guards will pause between observations for as long as it took the Chinese in their airports to look at a passport and wave the passenger through.

    Whereas the Chinese worked at one fairly fast pace without pausing and with minimal difference between one operator and another,in Italy the face was either very fast or plodding but without long pauses between observations.

    Our Borders Agency staff were and are like the dogs doped to run slowly and lose races at the old White City dog track where the BBC now sits and I used to clean up on the racecard because my friend at that time knew the kennel maid who had been instructed to dope the losing dogs–They functioned in perpetual slow motion.

    So slow in fact that a typical Chinese security guard (they are paid a lot less than ours and whose first language is not English was able to do three times as much work as one of ours) and twice as much as the equivelent Italian.


    We are told that all this delay is to protect us from terrorists and if it did and the risks were as great as we are told by Government Ministers I would take a different view.

    What are the facts?

    Since the 7/7 Tube and bus bombings, which were caused by people based on land who had not been through an airport, terrorists like Mohammed Siddique Khan who travelled by train from Luton to London, have killed 75 people and maimed perhaps 100.

    In contrast, 2900 people a year are killed on our roads with perhaps 5 times that number sustaining injuries.
    A look at the NHS and family doctors in PCTs reveals much more danger.

    The NHS through botched operations and failure to control infections kills 70,000 patients a year and GPs through misdiagnosis kill 30,000 people a year up from 20,000 in 2008.

    Some people will say that the Borders Agency is protecting us from the risk of a terrorist getting through and blowing us up with a dirty nuclear bomb but the reality is 4.5 million illegal immigrants were allowed in prior to the installation of E-Borders under the previous Labour Government and more are still coming using ferries and snakeheads/Kosovo Albanians to smuggle them in using shipping containers.

    These people are practically untraceable because they eventually use purchased NI numbers from the 19 million unallocated NI numbers that the civil service has created and burn any original paperwork they have so that even if they are caught no-one knows where to send them.


    The solution is to break up the BAA/Ferrovial Cartel and let the airlines manage airports efficiently on pain of losing their licence and landing slots.

    BAA has proved to be inefficient and is damaging the country,s reputation as a place to do business.


    This should be privatized, removed from Home Office control and someone like Serco should be placed in charge of Heathrow and Gatwick with other providers used to keep them on their toes.

    The arrangements should be strictly performance managed and additional staff drawn from the long term unemployed should be used as uniformed “spotters” to emulate the Chinese system and stop queues building up. They would do this work for their benefit plus an agreed top up at peak times.


    David Cameron needs to sack and replace Mrs May and her junior Ministers at the Home Office with people who are competent and present Borders Agency staff need to reapply for their jobs after privatization.

    The faults with the E-Borders machines need to be fixed and all existing passports called in and replaced with machine readable ones over the next 2 years with a rebate to offset the costs for people still with time to run on their existing non machine readable passports.

    Airport capacity at all regional airports needs to be expanded, particularly at Stansted and Boris Island needs to be built, if necessary with money from BRIC country real estate consortia and private wealth here in a Real Estate Investment Trust with special tax breaks.

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