British Airways has attacked the Home Office over long immigration queues at airports, saying they are a “dreadful welcome” to the UK.
The airline says Britons and visitors to the UK are having to wait for more than an hour after some international flights.
It says just a third of the 29 self-service eGates at Heathrow Terminal 5 are “routinely” open and that they close “prematurely” at 11pm despite passengers still getting off planes, leading to “massive queues and frustrating delays”.
The comments came in a submission to the government as part of a consultation on scrapping landing cards.
BA says the country must show it is “an easy place to travel to” as it prepares to leave the EU.
Raghbir S Pattar, the company’s director for Heathrow, said the Border Force must work in “the most efficient and flexible way”.
He said: “It is a constant frustration to us and to our customers that after a long flight they have to stand in queues, sometimes for over an hour, just to get back into the country.
“And it is a dreadful welcome for visitors to the UK to be faced with a packed immigration hall and the prospect of a frustrating delay to the start of their holiday or business trip.
“It adds insult to injury when you’re stuck in a queue but can see numerous gates which just aren’t being used.”
The Home Office hit back at BA’s statement, saying it “significantly misrepresents the experience of the vast majority of passengers arriving at Heathrow”.
It said more than 99% of UK and European passengers arriving at Heathrow were processed within 25 minutes, and for others it is 87%.
“Border Force and British Airways have an agreement to close the Terminal 5 ePassport gates at 11pm every evening,” a spokesperson added.
“In recent months, Border Force has kept the gates open beyond 11pm – often to accommodate passengers arriving on delayed British Airways flights.”
The Border Force makes “every effort to keep delays for passengers to a minimum,” the spokesperson added, but “the security of our border is paramount”.