Speaking to GB News on Tuesday, The Sun travel editor Lisa Minot blamed a “perfect storm” of the Government’s slow reopening, the bank holiday weekend, staffing shortages and a lack of planning as Heathrow saw hours of delays as it plummets in popularity for travellers well behind the rest of Europe. She said how the situation is not looking good and industry experts are raising major concerns about the future of tourism into Britain as the country slips behind the likes of Germany’s Frankfurt airport which has reportedly returned to near pre-pandemic passenger figures. This comes despite travel into the UK still being “80 percent down” on pre-pandemic levels.
She slammed: “We should have anticipated this and seen far more border force staff actually on the ground in Heathrow.
“By now there should not be this significant disruption, we have had many months for border force to upstate, to make sure they are able to process the number of people coming through.”
But Ms Minot expressed her bewilderment that despite the numbers of people travelling into the UK still “80 percent down” from pre-pandemic levels, Border Force and the government simply haven’t been able to take control of the situation and have been unable to get enough staff in.
The Sun travel editor went on to issue a severe warning that Britain is starting to “fall behind” other European airports in terms of passenger numbers and arrivals which she said will simply “put people off”.
But she stressed how a major reason for the chaos is that the Government are continuing to state that public health due to Coronavirus is the “priority” and that they are opening up in a safe and controlled and “quite slow fashion”.
Ms Minot also highlighted how there is “quite a lot of concern” amongst industry insiders who have expressed disdain at the slow speed of reopening adding that the UK will lose out in the long run if Britain fails to open up in the same way the rest of Europe has done.
She said: “We are already seeing the likes of Schiphol in Amsterdam and Frankfurt airport virtually at pre-pandemic levels!
“For the UK to slip behind now… it really is not looking good.”
Her comments come as travellers at Heathrow Airport were plunged into chaos as understaffed border control desks and slow processing times left queues of up to “five hours” over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Angry travellers caught up in the chaos took to social media to vent their fury at what was taking place.
One post read: “Currently in a massive crowd-queue designed for families at @HeathrowAirport passport control.
“Non-families breezing through and meanwhile this has the makings of a super spreader event: hoards of mask-less children, no ventilation, everyone crowded together, plenty of coughing.”
But Heathrow Airport hit back at the angry customers and pegged the blame on the British government for the delays.
Heathrow tweeted: “Waiting times at the border have on occasion been unacceptable and we have called on the UK Government to address the problem as a matter of urgency.
“Immigration desks/E-gates can only be operated by UK GOV officials – not airport staff.”
In response to a query on waiting times, it added: “Unfortunately, we are unable to provide information in regards to immigration queue times on behalf of UK Border Force, who operate and manage our immigration halls.”