Passport system glitch causes airport delays across UK

Travellers stranded at Heathrow

Source: X/Justin Bronk

There are long queues at British airports after the country’s Border Force suffered a nationwide technical issue that affected passport control.

Britain’s leading airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted in the south, Manchester in northern England, and Edinburgh in Scotland, said on Tuesday (local time) they were aware of a nationwide problem and their staff were working with Border Force officials to help resolve the issue.

One traveller described border officials rushing to manually process passport holders.

“All the e-gates were totally blank and there was just a lot of chaotic scenes,” said Sam Morter, 32, who was returning to London’s Heathrow from a holiday in Sri Lanka.

He made it through the airport after about 90 minutes.

“Stuck with thousands at Heathrow T5 as all the e-gates are down.
Apparently a nationwide system outage,” wrote Royal United Services Institute senior research fellow Justin Bronk on a video of stranded travellers in the arrival hall.

“You see how high-capacity the system normally is by how rapidly things turn to chaos when it breaks; plane after plane of people pouring in and backing up in the corridors.”

Mariella, who landed at the same Heathrow terminal from Athens at 8.30pm on Tuesday eventually emerged from passport control shortly before 11pm.

“They announced that everything was shut down, all the passports, whilst we were on the plane, she told Britain’s Independent newspaper.

“They told us the transit [which shuttles passengers from remote satellites to the main building] was also not working.

“Everything was just stuck. We were ‘snailing’ like a helix. They were just sending us all the way back, and all the way back, and it was just crazy for 2½ hours.”

Other videos posted on social media platform X showed long queues of passengers at passport desks in airports such as London’s Stansted and Heathrow.

Elsewhere, there were reports of people, including children and the elderly, being left without food or water for hours.

“We are aware of a technical issue affecting e-gates across the country,” a Home Office spokesperson said.

“We are working closely with Border Force and affected airports to resolve the issue as soon as possible and apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

Britain’s automated border gates system also crashed in May 2023, causing long queues and hours of delays for passengers.

The country’s air traffic system went into meltdown in August 2023 when a technical problem disrupted the National Air Traffic Service for several hours.

Border Force is a law enforcement command within the Home Office, or interior ministry, which operates passport control and e-gates at airports.

-with AAP

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