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Long lines Border intake at Heathrow

Are they still playing games by only having 2 agents processing 2 full planes?

Posted by
8293 posts

How often have you encountered the two-agents-for-two-planes problem?

Posted by
3209 posts

The number of agents at passport control varies. I’ve passed through when there were only a few, and other time when there were a bunch. It’s hard to predict. There may be a lot, then some go on break, leaving only a few. It is what it is and is out of our control. The same thing happens in the U.S.

Posted by
3465 posts

No different that arriving at any US International airport check and seeing 100 booths and only 2 agents working. Budget cuts. Can't hire enough qualified. Poor need assessment by the agency. Pick your excuse. It's the same everywhere.

Posted by
10 posts

This happened last Sept. Was in line 3 hours. 1 of the 2 agents left. Our hired driver to Oxford left. Had no working cell. Coming again in 6 weeks. Traveling with Alzheimer's friend. Welcome to Great Britain sign overhead, not really.

Posted by
11262 posts

If you think that Heathrow is the only place where they have only a few agents on duty to process lots of international arrivals, think again. Non-citizens don't vote, so they get low priority everywhere. As said above, next time you return to the US, take a look at the "foreigner" arrival lines.

And even if you had this problem at the time, date, and terminal of your arrival, it's totally possible that at another Heathrow terminal at the exact same time, they had plenty of agents. Or not.

There's not much any of us can do about it. Again, non-citizens don't get a say.

Posted by
5631 posts

Yep, try arriving at LAX. Not only are they notoriously slow I've experienced down right stupidity.

Returning from Istanbul filed out the card on the plane. Asked with a completely straight face the agent said, " you bring in turkey.?" Thinking it was a joke I laughed. "No, I went to Turkey."

"Why you try to bring in turkey?" "I'm not trying to bring in a turkey I went to Turkey, it's a country."

"Turkey is a country? Where? Where Turkey?"

Honest. Immigration, LAX, 2013.

Posted by
10 posts

I'm armed with a UK SIM card this time, and the taxi from Cranbrook knows we were abandoned last year and he promises he won't do the same.
The limo driver who lent me his cell last year shared that this was not a one time experience, that this was ongoing and that his fellow drivers feel powerless.
I promise I will look at the non citizen line when we get home.

Posted by
4745 posts

At least when you get to the front of the queue in London, you will probably be be spoken to politely. The rudest Americans I have ever come across by quite some margin work for US immigration and Brits are usually not made to feel welcome in my experience.

Posted by
1682 posts

The "did you bring turkey" from Turkey joke never gets old.

I've heard others using Hungary and Greece but I'll let you folks figure those out. It's not exactly first rate humor.

Posted by
2725 posts

Jennifer, The US Immigration people are just as rude to Americans. You are right. US Immigration workers are the rudest of all the international border controls that I have faced. And we are seeing their true colors even more so these days (well, and ICE). That being said, in March our person was actually pleasant and polite...I don't know what happened there.

Posted by
5631 posts

Mike neither I nor the immigration officer were making a joke.

It was a real experience at LAX.

Posted by
133 posts

When we arrived at Heathrow on May 28th, there were lots of agents working and the line went fast. Our agent was very nice and friendly.

When we arrived back in Houston, we were sure we were in the US due to the rudeness in immigration. We really missed the polite British manners.

Posted by
5561 posts

When I went through Heathrow last month I breezed through the non-EU section in less than ten minutes. This was NOT an early morning flight but was around 8 PM in the evening local time. What was totally back up and took at least a half hour to get through was the EU section. I had a colleague who messed up and got in the EU line by mistake. We all waited for her to come out! In the early AM when all the transatlantic flights arrive it's probably the opposite. Another reason to take that day flight. :)

Posted by
4368 posts

I've travelled to the US on many occasions and have never experienced any problems with rudeness from the border agents who check and stamp your passport. The ones I have the problem with are the TSA staff at security and screening. Do they receive particular training to be so rude, hostile and arrogant or is it a requirement just to get the job?

Posted by
9792 posts

FYI...those are not TSA agents at immigration. TSA is security prior to a flight.

Arrived at Terminal 7 JFK three weeks ago. Went through GE machine got my receipt. Walk to agent and wait my turn. He's delayed by someone. Tells me to go to the next line processing mobile passport. Second agent sees me.

Second agent: What are you doing?

Me: He sent me over here. (Pointing to first agent)

Second agent: You want the regular line (pointing to the other side of immigration)

Me: No, he sent me here.

Second agent turns to first agent.

Second agent: Why did you send him here?

First agent: He has global entry.

Second agent turns back to me.

Second agent: You have global entry? Just go. (And waves me away.)

The next step was customs and the officer there did check my passport to make sure it was me.

Posted by
623 posts

I've travelled to the US on many occasions and have never experienced
any problems with rudeness from the border agents who check and stamp
your passport.

That's also been my experience over many years when returning to the US on international flights. Not that those agents have tended to be smiley and chatty, but fer Pete's sake, they aren't hospitality greeters and I don't expect that. I try to just shut up, cooperate, and let them get on with their job.

Now that I have Global Entry, I barely even talk to anybody, just walk up to the kiosk, scan my passport, endure the machine's spitting out a grossly accurate photo of my face after a transatlantic flight (those people deserve hazard pay for having to look at that), and get pretty much waved on to baggage claim by an agent. When I landed in Miami from Havana in December 2016, my first time to use Global Entry, the agent confirmed I wasn't bringing back any souvenirs (I hate cigars and nobody I know likes rum), smiled, and said "Welcome home." The whole thing took maybe three minutes including my figuring out how to use the kiosk.

As to the original subject - I'm traveling to LHR later this year. I've decided to expect the worst when I head for border control, and hope for the best. I've never experienced long lines for that at LHR, but maybe my luck has run out.

Posted by
3465 posts

Customs and Immigration, the ones you talk to when returning from a foreign country into the US, are not the same as TSA, the ones who check you at security checkpoints for flights both domestic and international.

Immigration have higher standards to get hired. TSA only requires you to be able to yell harshly at passengers and enjoy groping them during the "enhanced" check. Both are usually rude and appear angry at the world. Of the two, Immigration usually are the easiest to deal with.

Please don't insult the Immigration people by calling them TSA. :-)

Posted by
3465 posts

Claudia, It is just hard to believe that while checking an entire plane load of people from Turkey the Customs and Immigration officer would say something like that unless you were the first person off the plane in the line and it was his first day.

Posted by
5631 posts

Wasn’t the first person in line either. No clue if it was his first day.

It happened.

You can choose to believe or not.

And I stand corrected about the individual being an immigration officer not a TSA agent so I edited my posts.

Posted by
3173 posts

I've dealt with both surly customs officials at JFK and delightfully pleasant TSA employees at JFK just upstairs from each other. It depends on the people, the day, who woke up on the wrong side of the bed, etc.

Posted by
381 posts

My husband's tactic is to treat them with respect and greet them with a pleasant greeting and a smile. It does not make the line move any faster but they always seemed stunned to be treated with pleasantness!

Posted by
337 posts

Hi,

While the by line looks like no one give a crap....

Just a two minute google provides
Heathrow,
Border Force is responsible, on behalf of the Home Office, for passport control checks at all UK airports. Key performance indicators are established for maximum queuing times at UK immigration.
As part of our overall passenger service monitoring programme, Heathrow records queue lengths and produces information on a monthly basis.
Methodology
In each of Heathrow's terminals, immigration queues are measured by an independent team.
Every 15 minutes the last passenger in the queue is identified and timed until they have cleared the immigration process. This takes place across all Heathrow terminals, every day, between 05:00 and 22:00.

Non EEA

You can even download, any month by pdf.

the results for June 2018 % of queue times <=45minutes
Terminal 2 78.52%
Terminal 3 75.86%
Terminal 4 77.41%
Terminal 5 76.0%

Just relax, and wonder how their doing, dealing plane loads of tired , unhappy travellers every day...

If you only have carryon then you will beat the majority to the customs hall,

Its also a lot more efficient dealing with "home country" entries, than those pesky tourists, all of us wanting to get in as quickly as possible.

regards

Posted by
4528 posts

I linked to the official stats further up in the thread.

Returning to the Heathrow earlier this week, my wait was … the ten seconds it takes to stick the passport into the reader and for it to be processed. (Picked up checked bag and was out of the terminal in about 20 mins after landing).

The non-EEA queue didn't look much either.

Time: 7pm

All anecdotal of course ...

Posted by
2624 posts

We arrived last September, a lot of agents on duty, went through line fast.

Posted by
4637 posts

True, Heathrow is disaster. I try to avoid it like devil cross. I fly from Seattle to Prague (and back) often. There is at least one change of planes involved. Those in Europe are Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Heathrow, De Gaulle. The best is Amsterdam then Frankfurt and only worse than Heathrow is De Gaulle in Paris. Because of a very good price I went through London again after many years. Bad mistake! Immigration took over two hours. And even despite the enormous crowds two immigration officers left their booths and were not replaced. In addition it was unseasonably hot (May 2018) and AC (if they had any) was not working. US immigration is no pleasure either but still way better than UK. I guess next time I would rather pay more and go via Amsterdam.

Posted by
12331 posts

What games? The one time LHR sticks outs in my mind is when I arrived in the late afternoon, ca 4 pm?, on a flight from SFO in June. It took a bit over one hour, ( 75 minutes, who knows?) to clear Border Control. Waiting in line I got to one point where a sign stated something to this effect that from this point on "you should be talking to a staff person in 45 mins. "

I took note of that claim, looked at my watch, and true enough, within 45 mins I was before a staff person. That assertion was dead accurate. In the long run having waited in excess of one hour didn't matter since LHR was the destination anyway.

Other times when I arrived at LHR from SFO or OAK in the morning, ie prior to 11am, going through Border Control was a breeze, 15mins to 30 mins, hardly noticeable.

Posted by
2725 posts

To each their own. My change airport of choice is Heathrow, specifically terminal 5. When my daughter lived in London, 5 years worth, we always got from plane to exit in 45 minutes. Now that half the time I just stick my passport onto the little machine when changing planes, it is a dream and fast. On the other hand, I have had issues coming into Boston, besides their rudeness (of course coming back in it feels like 4:00 AM so I'm crabby right back, but I haven't been sent to isolation yet...). Nonetheless, I do expect to have delays while flying, but that's OK. The alternative is by ship so many more days... Perspective in life is everything. Does the UK owe me immediate attention? I don't think so, but they are reasonably efficient, and easy so I'll stick to changing there. Schipol and CDG for changes are out for me, but again, YMMV.

Posted by
9792 posts

Right now there is a big public fight going on calling for more people at border controls at Heathrow. Some even suggests most Americans should be allowed to use the e-gates that UK citizens and Europeans can use. (Right now only Americans that have signed up for Registered Traveler can use them.) Border Force is against it because it would mean less control over who is admitted to the country.

Passing through Heathrow is different. You will have to show your passport but this is a security check and has nothing to do with Immigration. But some people still think anytime they show their passport it's immigration.

Posted by
4368 posts

Some even suggests most Americans should be allowed to use the e-gates that UK citizens and Europeans can use.

Why?

If such a move was reciprocated then I would have no issue with it but considering I have to apply and pay for an ESTA every two years I see no reason why American citizens should be given preferential treatment above any other non EU national. Count yourselves lucky that all you need is your passport to enter the UK.

Posted by
3173 posts

Citizens from 40 countries can apply for the Registered Traveler Program to go through passport control more quickly than those without it. It costs £70 for 12 months. I travel to England maybe 2X per year -- typically just once a year. For me, it's not worth it.

https://www.gov.uk/registered-traveller

Posted by
12331 posts

I would not pay that extra 70 GBP just to expedite Border Control at LHR, would rather use it for something else. I'll take my chances on the wait duration , be it 20 mins or one hour and twenty minutes.

Posted by
9792 posts

I have Registered Traveler. In the last two months I have entered the UK twice...once at Gatwick and once at Heathrow.

At Gatwick the regular immigration line snaked through the immigration hall and way up the ramp that leads to immigration. I was through in five minutes.

At Heathrow I looked my watch as I stepped off the plane at Terminal 5 Satellite C. I walked to the lifts,took the lifts down to the train to take me to the main part of the Terminal, waited for the train, took it, rode the elevator up to the arrivals level, went through immigration, took escalators down to baggage claim, stopped in the loo, walked through immigration and to the elevator down to the tube, stepped through the ticket barrier and onto the platform. I looked at my watch again

19 minutes.

Register traveler is £70 the first year and £60 every year after that. I enter the UK six to ten times a year. To me, it's worth every penny. Or should I say pence. YMMV.

Posted by
12331 posts

The WC at LHR is also located prior to one reaching the Border Control lines, unlike at Gatwick, if I recall correctly. That's one advantage of LHR but if the price is better at Gatwick from SFO/OAK I'll fly into Gatwick, plan accordingly, wait in any line for Border Control, have a hot meal, then using the Oyster card, take the direct Thames Link (as long as there is no construction on week-ends) direct to St Pancras/Kings Cross.

Posted by
1173 posts

If you’re flying into Gatwick the airport has premium passport control. Book it in advance for about £7 and you get a shorter line. I used it this past June and went straight to the front of an area segregated for the service. I estimate the regular line was about 30 minutes so it did save me some time.

Posted by
10 posts

The time saved benefit of paying £70 does not kick in until the SECOND UK entry ...because after you pay and have been " accepted" you still have to be slowed down at arrival by getting in yet another line and having an agent really approve your application. This is our last of 5 entries, so I'm not wasting £140.

Posted by
6506 posts

The FT currently has an article up about the delays . . .

https://www.ft.com/content/c5b05bb6-93db-11e8-b747-fb1e803ee64e

But the reality for many overseas visitors arriving at the UK’s airports has been anything but welcoming in recent months, with sprawling queues and waits of up to three hours to have their passports checked. Many have questioned whether the situation will worsen when the UK leaves the EU next March.

Border Force, the UK government agency that runs customs and immigration checks, has seen its annual funding from central government slashed by 10 per cent over the past six years, and travellers — who have increased in number by almost 30 per cent in the past five years — are paying the price.

But at Heathrow, Britain’s busiest airport, Border Force has missed its target for non-EEA passport holders for three years running.

In June 2013, 99.7 per cent of non-EEA passengers passed through Heathrow’s flagship Terminal 5 in less than 45 minutes. In June of this year, just 76 per cent cleared passport control in the allotted time. Other terminals saw similar declines.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, said queueing was a significant issue because “it’s the first point of contact any traveller has with the UK”.

In a letter sent last month to Paul Lincoln, director-general of Border Force, Mr Holland-Kaye complained that during one of England’s World Cup matches this summer, the number of manned desks at Heathrow halved, from 22 to 11, and queue times increased to three hours.

Posted by
4 posts

I arrived in Heathrow on Saturday, 7/21 at 9:30 am and we were through in a matter of minutes. Very polite agent and easy process.

Posted by
4368 posts

Arived at Miami International this afternoon, 20 minutes in the line and a polite immigration official (still haven't encountered a bad one) and no customs! Has Miami done away with customs now and is this a trend throughout the US?

Posted by
3173 posts

Arived at Miami International this afternoon, 20 minutes in the line
and a polite immigration official (still haven't encountered a bad
one) and no customs! Has Miami done away with customs now and is this
a trend throughout the US?

Being questioned by a customs agent is hit or miss at JFK's Terminal 4. If anything it used to be a mere walkthrough if you had nothing to declare.

Posted by
10 posts

Vindication of my complaint! British Air chief Alex Cruz said Heathrow is worse than anywhere on the continent. With 2 hour lines the norm...unacceptable.
I'm dreading Sept. 3 when we have to do it again.

Posted by
10 posts

Vindication of my complaint! British Air chief Alex Cruz said Heathrow is worse than anywhere on the continent. With 2 hour lines the norm...unacceptable.
I'm dreading Sept. 3 when we have to do it again.

Posted by
4368 posts

Heathrow is my default airport for the majority of my flights and not once have I experienced waits of anywhere approaching two hours. The longest I've waited is about 30 minutes with the majority averaging 15 minutes. Granted I'm in the EU line but most of the time this is as long or even longer than the non EU line.

I suggest you stop worrying about something that may be a non issue and focus on the positives of your forthcoming trip. Even if you are extremely unlucky to face a 2 hour wait at Heathrow it's hardly the end of the world is it?

Posted by
519 posts

I flew into Heathrow three weeks ago mid morning. I have an Italian passport and a US passport. What I use depends on the lines. Usually the EU passport lines in Europe seem to be shorter than the non EU. This time at Heathrow, the EU line was very long and moving slowly. I went through on my American passport and it took about 10 minutes.

Posted by
12331 posts

Now that I know Gatwick since the last 3 flights arr/dep from London have been from there, I'll choose Gatwick over LHR if the price from SFO or OAK is the same.

Both have pros/cons but from Gatwick I can go to St Pancras direct by the Thameslink train provided that I don't arrival on a week-end and at a much cheaper price on the Oyster card. Waiting to go through Border Control at Gatwick in the morning didn't seem too long, or I wasn't paying attention.

Posted by
3399 posts

Just arrived at Heathrow today. Border control for someone connecting to a domestic flight in the UK was well organized and quick. 30 minutes from leaving plane through passport control and security.

Posted by
3178 posts

...and no customs! Has Miami done away with customs

Sometimes customs is rolled into immigration and that person takes and reviews the declaration form, at least at MSP Terminal 2 it seems to be usually combined into one station.

Posted by
10 posts

BBC today reports Heathrow Border Force missed their time wait target 30 out of 31 days in July, with waits up to 21/2 hours. The 200 extra agents promised by Home Office has not been implemented.

Posted by
4368 posts

Sometimes customs is rolled into immigration and that person takes and reviews the declaration form, at least at MSP Terminal 2 it seems to be usually combined into one station.

The border agent had no interest in viewing the declaration form, he said it's not required anymore and he doesn't understand why the airlines keep handing them out. This was despite some food items that I wanted to declare but he wasn't having any of it. He also didn't stamp our passports which has also never happened before.

Posted by
4368 posts

The key words in the report are "Up to 2 1/2 hours". There are no figures on the percentage of occasions that a 2 1/2 wait was experienced although I agree that such a wait is unacceptable. I'm also in support of American citizens using the 'e' gates but only if the US drops the Esta requirement and allows UK citizens to use expedited entry into the US but we know this will never happen.

Posted by
4368 posts

This morning we flew into Heathrow T3 at 07:00 hours and fully expecting it to be manic. Our time from arriving at the immigration hall to exiting it was 3 minutes. Granted we were able to use the family line and walked straight up to a border agent however there was no queue at the e-gates and the lines for non-EU passengers were reasonably small and moving quite quickly.

Certainly no issue for me at Heathrow once more and it demonstrates that there cannot be an average queue time.

Posted by
27 posts

It was nearly two hours for us when we arrived the evening on August 2. And the employee could not have been more unpleasant. :(

Posted by
4368 posts

And the employee could not have been more unpleasant. :(

I can honestly say I've never experienced anything but friendliness and sincerity when dealing with British Border Force. I've never had a problem with American immigration either but that can't be said for the TSA. My experience with them yesterday was absolutely appalling (as usual). I was struggling to juggle five trays and placing both kids items in them whilst removing all electricals, shoes, belts etc whilst being barked at to keep the trays moving into the scanner. The agent doing the barking stood leaning against a table instead of actually helping by moving the trays like every other security officer I've encountered around the world would do. This was followed by an agent manning the metal detector who saw fit to split up kids from their parents despite informing him that they were mine, met with nothing but grunts and nodding of the head to indicate where he wanted us before finally deciding that we should all be kept together.

The TSA staff are the most incompetent, arrogant, ignorant and lazy officials I've ever encountered and they are a stain on America's image to tourists. They are one of several reasons that have led us to make the decision after this recent visit to America to make it potentially our last.

Posted by
519 posts

It took Mom and I about 15 minutes this morning. The agents were all very pleasant.