30th Apr 2012 9:40am | By Alasdair Morton
The Home Office is trying to hide from the public the extent to which delays are hampering travel at Heathrow airport which is “at breaking point”, according to leaked emails seen by The Daily Telegraph.
Last week delays were as long as two hours, with many passengers resorting to taking their frustrations out on under pressure staff by surging through border control without showing their documents, and even subjecting them to slow, sarcastic claps.
BAA, the owner of Heathrow has issued a leaflet apologising to beleaguered passengers in an attempt to diffuse the sitution, although this has only served to antagonise both passengers and staff struggling to cope with the inlfux of people to the UK.
Marc Owen, director of UK Border Agency Operations, said in response to BAA’s actions: “The leaflet is not all right with us. It is both inflammatory and likely yo increase tensions in arrivals halls especially in the current atmosphere.
“It is inappropriate in that it is not for you [BAA] to display how to complain on our behalf.
“Please refraing from handing out [the leaflets] of I will escalate [the matter] with ministers who are likely to take a very dim view.”
Mr Owen has also asked BAA to prevent passengers from taking pictures of the lengthy quees in an attempt to halt the spread of information about how long the delays are and how the airport is struggling to cope.
Labour’s aviation spokesman and a former transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: “This is a pure cover up.
“This is further evidence of Border Force trying to hide the severity of the problem.”
Problems were exaccerbated with technology not working correctly and a short age of staff. With millions of passengers expected to arrive in the UK for the Olympics this summer, pressure is mounting with anxieties that London airports are not fit to cope with the influx of passengers.