Waiting target for non-EEA visitors at Heathrow missed in April

A queue at Heathrow on 30 April, 2012
Image caption The worst wait was on 30 April, when passengers in Terminal Four waited three hours, BAA said.

The UK Border Force failed to meet its target at Heathrow Airport in April for processing most passengers from outside the European Economic Area within 45 minutes, BAA has said.

The worst wait was on 30 April, when arrivals in Terminal 4 waited for three hours, the airports owner said.

The Border Force met its 25-minute target for EEA and Swiss arrivals most of the time, according to BAA.

It comes after MPs expressed concern at the length of the queues last month.

UK airports have two queues for passport control - one for the EEA, which covers the European Union, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway, as well as Swiss nationals - and another for citizens of other countries.

Under the targets, the UK Border Force aims to process immigration at Heathrow for non-EEA passengers in less than 45 minutes for 95% of the time.

BAA said in April, Terminal 1 missed its 45-minute target for non-EEA travellers 12 days out of 30. Terminal Three missed the target on 21 days and Terminal 4, 21 days. Terminal 5 suffered the worst problems with the target missed 23 out of 30 days.

The airport operator said other long queues of the month included arrivals at Terminal 5 waiting two hours and 35 minutes on 17 April and Terminal 3 passengers waiting two hours and 20 minutes on 25 April.

The longest wait at Terminal 1 was one hour and 15 minutes on 12 April.

Commons statement

BAA samples queue lengths every 15 minutes to collate its figures. They are different from those collected by the UK Border Force, which checks the queues every hour.

Immigration Minister Damian Green made an emergency Commons statement on Monday after lengthy queues seen at Heathrow leading up to the weekend.

He acknowledged there had been "some breaches of acceptable waiting times", which he said were mainly caused by severe weather disrupting flights.

"Border Force data show that the longest queuing time for immigration control was one and a half hours on Friday night at Terminal 5 for non-EU nationals, and times for UK and EU nationals were significantly lower. These times are too long," Mr Green told MPs.

He said target times for non-EU passengers at Heathrow were met 11 out of the first 15 days of April.

The UK Border Force would ensure all immigration desks were fully staffed during summer peak times, Mr Green said.

Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant MP said the BAA figures suggested that Mr Green's comments were "completely misplaced".

"People are right to feel angry that thanks to the government's ineptitude and cuts of nearly 900 members of staff, queues at Heathrow have been far too long.

"The government must get a grip or they will undermine our border security, our business reputation and the British tourism industry."

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Media captionImmigration minister Damian Green says the queues at Heathrow are "unacceptable" but that "decisive action" is being taken

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Cuts already made in UK Border Agency have had a major impact and further cuts planned every year until 2015 will make the situation even worse."

In a statement, a UK Border Force spokesperson said: "Border Force and BAA data shows that queuing time targets for UK and EEA citizens were not breached during April. But we know at times queues have been too long.

"That is why we have announced an extra 80 staff for peak times at Heathrow. And it's why we've also engaged an extra 480 people to cover the Olympic period.

"In the longer term our management and rostering changes will address the issue of queues."

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