Heathrow arrivals queue for ‘three hours’ after ‘e-gates break down AGAIN’

Heathrow arrivals today queued for up to three hours after e-gates broke down and just one official checked hundreds of passports, according to frustrated passengers.

The delays have meant some passengers arriving from ‘amber list’ countries missed their pre-booked taxi or coaches on the airport’s busiest weekend of the year. 

To make matters worse, London Underground trains from Heathrow terminals are closed over the weekend due to engineering works, meaning already delayed holidaymakers have to take a replacement bus service to Hammersmith.  

Ryan Marshall, 30, a building site manager who now lives in France and is visiting the UK for a wedding, said it took him three hours to get through passport control.

John Wilson, 53, who works in telecoms and was returning to the UK from Bucharest, described ‘snaking’ queues that took two hours to get through. 

Meanwhile, Easyjet will fly 135,000 lockdown-weary Britons to more than 80 locations today as airports and airlines brace for their busiest weekend of the year so far as thousands escape the ‘pingdemic’ and storm chaos.

Gatwick Airport said it expects to see around 250 to 260 flights and between 25,000 to 27,000 passengers a day over the weekend – up from a low of just 15 flights a day at the height of the pandemic.

Photographs taken at Heathrow airport this morning showed crowds of holidaymakers eagerly queuing at check-in desks ahead of much anticipated getaways.  

In other news today:

  • Thunderstorms are to continue battering parts of the UK today as the recent heatwave makes way for a deluge of torrential rain, which has hammered campers and sparked flash-flooding;
  • The boyfriend of missing British hiker Esther Dingley said the mountain pass where bones have been found was an ‘easy’ route that was ‘well within her capabilities’;
  • Prince Harry has clinched a lucrative four-book deal and, in news sure to alarm Buckingham Palace, industry insiders said the ‘tell-all’ tome unveiled by Harry earlier this week was only the ‘tip of the iceberg’;
  • Frontline workers paralysed by Pingdemic chaos will get access to 200 new testing sites from Monday – but there is still confusion as to who will use them and why the government has taken so long to act;
  • A thug in a Spider-Man outfit was filmed punching a female worker in the face while a prankster mob stormed the store to ’cause chaos for likes’.
The delays (pictured) have meant some passengers arriving from 'amber list' countries missed their pre-booked taxi or coaches on the airport's busiest weekend of the year

The delays (pictured) have meant some passengers arriving from 'amber list' countries missed their pre-booked taxi or coaches on the airport's busiest weekend of the year

The delays (pictured) have meant some passengers arriving from ‘amber list’ countries missed their pre-booked taxi or coaches on the airport’s busiest weekend of the year

To make matters worse, London Underground trains from Heathrow terminals are closed over the weekend due to engineering works, meaning already delayed holidaymakers have to take a replacement bus service to Hammersmith

To make matters worse, London Underground trains from Heathrow terminals are closed over the weekend due to engineering works, meaning already delayed holidaymakers have to take a replacement bus service to Hammersmith

To make matters worse, London Underground trains from Heathrow terminals are closed over the weekend due to engineering works, meaning already delayed holidaymakers have to take a replacement bus service to Hammersmith

Ryan Marshall, 30, a building site manager who now lives in France who is visiting the UK for a wedding, said it took him three hours to get through passport control. Pictured, friends and family waiting at arrivals for their loved ones

Ryan Marshall, 30, a building site manager who now lives in France who is visiting the UK for a wedding, said it took him three hours to get through passport control. Pictured, friends and family waiting at arrivals for their loved ones

Ryan Marshall, 30, a building site manager who now lives in France who is visiting the UK for a wedding, said it took him three hours to get through passport control. Pictured, friends and family waiting at arrivals for their loved ones

Thousands of Brits faced ‘hours and hours’ of queues as staff absences and broken machines were blamed for the ‘absolutely dreadful’ wait times.    

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said this weekend was ‘set to be one of the busiest of the year so far’, adding: ‘We’re thrilled to see the terminals coming to life again, with most of the shops and restaurants now reopened.’

He said extra staff had been drafted in to ensure passengers ‘have a smooth journey’, and added: ‘We look forward to welcoming back even more passengers as vaccination rates climb in the UK and abroad.’ 

But one passenger, Mr Marshall, said those at the back of the passport control were waiting ‘hours and hours’ because there was only one person at the desk checking passports.

He added: ‘I’ve been in the Alps for 10 years, but I’m here for my mate’s wedding. It only got busy after we landed, but the people at the back of the queue were going to be waiting for hours and hours. 

‘Then the machines at passport control broke and there was only one person on the desk checking everyone’s passports. 

‘My flight landed at 7:30am and it’s now 10:00am, so it’s taken me almost three hours to come through. I’ve now missed my coach so have to get the underground into London and then get a train down to Bournemouth. 

‘That doesn’t make any sense to me because I’m supposed to be quarantining. When I booked a day five test in Boots, they said there weren’t any available, so come in on day 4 instead – it’s ridiculous. I’m supposed to be going back in three weeks’ time, but the rules keep changing so I might have to cut it short. 

‘Going on a stag-do and to a wedding has turned into a month long trip. It’s put me off coming back to England again.’  

Gatwick Airport said it expects to see around 250 to 260 flights and between 25,000 to 27,000 passengers a day over the weekend. Pictured, Heathrow this morning

Gatwick Airport said it expects to see around 250 to 260 flights and between 25,000 to 27,000 passengers a day over the weekend. Pictured, Heathrow this morning

Gatwick Airport said it expects to see around 250 to 260 flights and between 25,000 to 27,000 passengers a day over the weekend. Pictured, Heathrow this morning

Mr Wilson said there were ‘only two people on the desk and the queues were like a fun park, wrapping around and around like a snake’.

He added: ‘We were halfway through “the snake” when we started, but by the time we reached the desk it was all the way down the aisle. Our flight landed at 8am and it’s now 10:20am, so it’s taken us over two hours to get through.

‘I had a taxi booked for 9am but he cancelled on me and charged me £35 because I wasn’t there. British people seem to just sail through, but for everyone else it was absolutely dreadful.’ 

Tom O’Connell, 46, a pharmacy owner from Putney, west London, said: ‘We’ve just arrived from Malta which is a green list country. The queues were absolutely ridiculous – it took us over an hour to get from the back to the front of the queue. 

‘And then there’s another massive queue to the person checking your papers. There’s just not enough staff and over half the machines – around 10 of them – were boarded off. Most people expect it I guess, but it’s just a disappointing way to enter a country. Plus people coming from different countries are queuing together. 

‘There’s a sign for red list countries, but that’s it, everyone else is in the same boat. Not that I’m concerned because I’m double vaccinated. But they tell you to disembark in rows to stop everyone pushing up the queue. It seems pointless if your then shoved in a queue with the rest of the plane and other passengers.’ 

The most popular foreign destination this weekend is Spain, with between 60 and 70 flights a day, while around 30 planes will depart each day for Greece, Gatwick said.

The airport said flight numbers are still far below the 950 per day at this time of year pre-Covid.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said it was also expecting its busiest weekend of the year so far, with flights heading out to more than 100 destinations in 30 countries.  

Tui said it has almost double the number of passengers travelling Friday to Sunday compared to last weekend. Pictured, Heathrow

Tui said it has almost double the number of passengers travelling Friday to Sunday compared to last weekend. Pictured, Heathrow

Tui said it has almost double the number of passengers travelling Friday to Sunday compared to last weekend. Pictured, Heathrow

The most popular foreign destination is Spain, with between 60 and 70 flights a day, while around 30 planes will depart each day for Greece, Gatwick said. Pictured, Heathrow

The most popular foreign destination is Spain, with between 60 and 70 flights a day, while around 30 planes will depart each day for Greece, Gatwick said. Pictured, Heathrow

The most popular foreign destination is Spain, with between 60 and 70 flights a day, while around 30 planes will depart each day for Greece, Gatwick said. Pictured, Heathrow

Decline in analysis of coronavirus variants in positive tests from red list country passengers ‘opens floodgates’, MPs warn 

A steep decline in positive tests being analysed for variants will ‘open the floodgates’ to new coronavirus versions, MPs have warned. 

In the three weeks to March 17 there were around 1,827 positive tests from people entering the UK from red list countries, according to an analysis of NHS test and trace data, carried out by the House of Commons library. Of these, somewhere between 63 per cent and 68 per cent were analysed to look for variants.

But in the three weeks to June 30, just 12 to 33 per cent of the 507 positive tests from people entering the UK from red list countries were sequenced.

Layla Moran, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on coronavirus, told The Guardian the figures were ‘truly staggering’ and ‘make a mockery of the UK government’s claim to be a global leader in genome sequencing’. 

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They added: ‘We will handle over 250 each day, with locations in Spain and Greece particularly popular.

‘We’ve been looking forward to this weekend – the start of the summer holidays – for some time and cannot wait to finally see our passengers enjoying themselves, whether that’s indulging in some retail therapy or eating in our restaurants, before jetting off on a well-deserved holiday.’

Manchester Airports Group said it is expecting 958 flights at Manchester Airport from Friday to Monday, 224 at East Midlands Airport and 1,330 at London Stansted.

This is up from the 632, 177 and 735 respectively during the same weekend last year, but still well below the 2,512 at Manchester, 503 at East Midlands and 2,139 at London Stansted in July 2019.

A spokesman said: ‘After what has been the most challenging year in our history, it is encouraging finally to start seeing some passengers return to our terminals.

‘Allowing fully vaccinated travellers to visit amber list countries without quarantining on return has been an important step forward, opening up many more destinations for a well-deserved summer holiday.

‘This increase in passengers is an encouraging but tentative step towards recovery, with volumes still significantly lower than they were before the pandemic.’

Airline easyJet said it is preparing to carry more than 135,000 passengers this weekend from the UK on over 80 routes to green and amber-list destinations across Europe.

In total there will be 251 easyJet flights taking to the skies, with popular destinations including Malta, Madeira, Malaga in Spain, Faro and Lisbon in Portugal, and Corfu and Athens in Greece, the airline added.

Ali Gayward, easyJet’s UK country manager, said: ‘With schools breaking up for summer, this weekend sees the busiest weekend so far this year and we are looking forward to taking as many people as we can on that long-awaited and well-deserved trip, or to reunite them with their loved ones.’

Tui said it has almost double the number of passengers travelling Friday to Sunday compared to last weekend, with the Balearics and Greece the ‘clear favourites’ and Palma, Ibiza and Rhodes the most popular destinations.

A spokeswoman said it will be resuming flights to Alicante and Malaga in Spain, the Canary Island of Fuerteventura, Kefalonia and Skiathos in Greece, and Marrakech, Morocco, this weekend.

Travellers returning from a green destination are not required to self-isolate, but only a handful of major European summer hotspots are in that tier. Pictured, passengers at Heathrow

Travellers returning from a green destination are not required to self-isolate, but only a handful of major European summer hotspots are in that tier. Pictured, passengers at Heathrow

Travellers returning from a green destination are not required to self-isolate, but only a handful of major European summer hotspots are in that tier. Pictured, passengers at Heathrow

Hundreds of people flocked to Heathrow airport this morning to catch flights out of the UK

Hundreds of people flocked to Heathrow airport this morning to catch flights out of the UK

Hundreds of people flocked to Heathrow airport this morning to catch flights out of the UK

Since May, quarantine and testing requirements have been determined by whether a person is entering the UK from a green, amber or red list location.

Travellers returning from a green destination are not required to self-isolate, but only a handful of major European summer hotspots are in that tier.

Spain, Italy and Greece are among the countries on the amber list.

Those returning from an amber country must quarantine at home for 10 days unless they have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.  

Jet2 said it has 170 flights departing to more than 40 destinations over the weekend, up from around 70 to six places the previous weekend.

The spokeswoman added: ‘The start of school holidays in many parts of the UK means that this weekend will be the busiest in months and we’re very excited about taking people away to enjoy a well-deserved and long-overdue holiday.

Government data shows that 14 per cent fewer tests were carried out compared to last week, which may be partly behind the fall

Government data shows that 14 per cent fewer tests were carried out compared to last week, which may be partly behind the fall

Government data shows that 14 per cent fewer tests were carried out compared to last week, which may be partly behind the fall

Separately, the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said England's R rate was between 1.2 and 1.4, unchanged from last week. It means that on average, every 10 infected people are currently passing the virus to between 12 and 14 others. But the estimate lags several weeks behind the current situation because of the way the R is calculated

Separately, the Government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said England's R rate was between 1.2 and 1.4, unchanged from last week. It means that on average, every 10 infected people are currently passing the virus to between 12 and 14 others. But the estimate lags several weeks behind the current situation because of the way the R is calculated

Separately, the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said England’s R rate was between 1.2 and 1.4, unchanged from last week. It means that on average, every 10 infected people are currently passing the virus to between 12 and 14 others. But the estimate lags several weeks behind the current situation because of the way the R is calculated

‘Destinations such as the Balearics, Canaries, Croatia, Portugal and Greece are all looking very popular with holidaymakers this weekend and beyond, particularly with such great deals to be had.’

Since May, quarantine and testing requirements have been determined by whether a person is entering the UK from a green, amber or red list location.

Travellers returning from a green destination are not required to self-isolate, but only a handful of major European summer hotspots are in that tier.

Spain, Italy and Greece are among the countries on the amber list.

Those returning from an amber country must quarantine at home for 10 days unless they have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Minister hints France could be dropped from ‘amber-plus’ travel quarantine list amid falling cases of Beta Covid variant 

France could soon be dropped from the ‘amber-plus’ travel quarantine list because of falling rates of the Beta variant, a Government minister hinted today.

Anyone who arrives in Britain from across the Channel must still self-isolate for ten days, even if they are fully-vaccinated. Officials insisted the move was necessary because of the ‘persistent presence’ of the South African strain, which can partially evade vaccines.

But Environment Secretary George Eustice today suggested the stricter rules could be scrapped when No10 next reviews the list at the start of August.

New data showed just 1.3 per cent of new infections sequenced in France were Beta during the most recent seven-day period. Rates are up to five times higher in other European holiday hotspots, such as Spain and Greece. Outbreaks are also currently bigger in both destinations.

Discussing the move to put France on the tougher list, Mr Eustice told LBC: ‘There was a reason at the time that the advice was we should put France on that amber (plus) list.

‘It was concern about the Beta variant and the fact that the vaccine might be slightly less effective against that.

‘But as those rates come down obviously the evidence will change and it can be reviewed and we will want to be putting countries like France back onto the amber list in the normal way.’

It comes as the great British summer getaway began this morning as the heatwave continued. Thousands of tourists headed to packed airports, with families keen to escape the ‘pingdemic’ chaos.

Meanwhile, MPs have warned other Covid variants are being allowed to enter Britain unchecked because of a decline in genomic testing.

Just 3 per cent of positive tests among travellers arriving from amber list countries are now being analysed in laboratories, a report claimed today. For comparison, the figure stood at 60 per cent in March.

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