May 1 - Airlines are calling for urgent action to end the immigration queues at London's Heathrow airport before it damages the UK's image ahead of the Olympics. Joanne Nicholson reports.
Border control at Heathrow airport - the scene say some passengers of long queues in recent days. There've been complaints of unmanned control desks and iris scanners that don't work. One immigration officer - who didn't wish to be identified - backed up the reports. SOUNDBITE (English) Anonymous UK Border Agency officer, saying: "Chaos, complete chaos. We just have too many passengers, too few staff and a lot of potential problems. Public order problems, passenger anger problems and staff who are knackered, to be quite frank." The UK's border agency is run by the government. It's planning to cut headcount by a fifth in the next three years. But Britain's Immigration Minister says the recent problems were partly beyond their control and exaggerated. SOUNDBITE (English) Damian Green, MP, UK Immigration Minister, saying: "This was caused mainly by the severe weather leading to flight diversions and changing flight schedules, and the bunching of arrivals. But I would stress to the House that our information shows that queuing times bore no resembalnce to some of the more wild suggestions." But with 12 weeks to go until the start of the Olympics concern is mounting. The Confederation of British Industry says the delays are damaging London's image as a global business centre. And one airline group, IAG, the parent company of British Airways, wants the government to "take urgent action now" It and other airlines are reportedly facing the prospect of having to pay higher landing fees to help fund the border agency. That's not a prospect they welcome. In a statement they said UK air passengers already pay the highest flight taxes in the world and very high airport charges. The row is likely to continue - but passengers are hoping the queues at Europe's busiest airport don't. Joanne Nicholson, Reuters