Border guards to be sent to English airports to tackle flight chaos

Border guards in Scotland and Northern Ireland may be redeployed to English airports this weekend to tackle half-term holiday flight chaos

  • A third of border guards could be sent to English airports amid travel mayhem
  • Passengers are told to expect long queues for passport control and baggage
  •  British Airways has already cancelled 16,000 flights until Autumn

Up to a third of border guards in Scotland and Northern Ireland could be redeployed to English airports this weekend to avoid more flight disruption.

The emergency measures have been brought in to deal with a surge of families returning from half-term holidays over the next couple of days.

Officials want to avoid the turmoil seen in departure halls last weekend. 

However, travellers have been warned they could still face border queues of several hours.

And there could also be chaos in luggage collection halls, where the staff shortages plaguing airlines are at their worst.

The lack of workers causes bottlenecks in baggage halls, which could affect border waiting times.

Worker shortages have led to long delays at passport control, check-in and baggage drop-off and pick-up

Northern Irish border guards could be redeployed this weekend to try and ease English airport bottlenecks

Nearly 11,000 planes with the capacity for a total of 1.9million passengers will have landed by tomorrow night in the UK over the extended Bank Holiday weekend, according to the aviation analysis firm Cirium.

Lucy Moreton, from the Immigration Service Union, said queues at the border were ‘inevitable’ this weekend and could last several hours – an issue exacerbated by the number of families returning at the end of half-term.

Children under 12 cannot use electronic passport gates, which could lead to longer queues at manned booths. A spike in the number of migrant boats crossing the Channel could also fuel bottlenecks, because border guards will have to be redirected to the South East coast.

Miss Moreton said: ‘You will certainly see queues in excess of an hour and possibly in excess of two at particularly busy points.

‘It depends on border resourcing of course, but it also depends on whether flights are bunched. Some airports, particularly those managing short-haul budget airlines, will bunch arrivals to save costs, so everyone will arrive within a short time-frame, which adds to the problem.

‘Children under 12 also cannot use passport e-gates, and it’s likely there will be a lot of families travelling. That’s going to be a pressure point.’

She said running a smooth operation would be ‘reliant on people being drafted in from elsewhere to support the operation’.

Asked how many could be redeployed from Scotland and Northern Ireland, she said: ‘It’s probably about a third. They get travel time, travel subsistence payments, hotel fees… all of those.’

Hundreds of flights have been delayed or cancelled in recent weeks and passengers have endured waits of several hours at check-in gates and in baggage-handling areas.

To alleviate pressure this weekend, airlines have been axing flights from their schedules.

Budget airline easyJet has cancelled 200 flights over the past week and TUI is slashing six a day from Manchester airport until the end of the month. 

BA has axed 16,000 flights, or 8,000 round trips, until the autumn. 

Such planned cancellations mean there are likely to be fewer at the last minute, reducing disruption at departure halls.

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