Heathrow immigration systems 'might not cope' with Olympics

11 Apr 2012 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The UK immigration systems in place at Heathrow Airport might not be able to cope with the influx of people during this summer's Olympics, it has been suggested.

A letter to culture secretary Jeremy Hunt from the chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, John Whittingdale, revealed that lawmakers have met with Heathrow's operator BAA ahead of the Olympic Games.

The letter, published today (Wednesday, April 11th), revealed that lawmakers did "not leave the briefing confident" that Heathrow was ready to cope in a "timely fashion" with the huge numbers of people who will need to be processed through the immigration systems during the Games.

Mr Whittingdale wrote: "We understand that significant preparations have been made to accommodate unusual sporting equipment, special lanes for the Olympic family, welcoming arrangements for competitors and additional Olympic ambassadors.

"However, far less thought seems to have been given to the issue of how to deal with long queues at immigration."

Mr Whittingdale's primary concern appeared to be that, while tourists will understand that the Olympics are an unusual event and the number of people passing through Heathrow is higher than normal, waits in excess of an hour "may deter tourists from returning".

There is an additional problem that planes that cannot unload their passengers will be forced to circle the airport or clutter up the runways, leading to delays and problems with air traffic control.