Why are there long delays at UK airports and what caused the problems? Border Force IT issues explained

Airports including Heathrow, London City, Manchester and Edinburgh all reported problems

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Passengers arriving at airports across the UK were left facing delays after an IT failure disrupted self-service passport gates.

Airports including Heathrow, London City, Manchester and Edinburgh reported problems with e-gates, though the UK Border Force has now fixed the problem.

The Border Force is part of the Home Office, which issued a statement saying: “This afternoon a technical issue affected e-gates at a number of ports.

“The issue was quickly identified and has now been resolved.

“We have been working hard to minimise disruption, and apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below

What caused the problem?

The gates allow travellers with biometric passports to pass through border control without a manual inspection.

Due to the IT problem delays were caused as passengers were processed through border control manually.

What is the UK Border Force?

It is a law enforcement command within the Home Office. It secures the UK border by carrying out immigration and customs controls for people and goods entering the country.

What did the airports and passengers say about it?

Edinburgh Airport said: “All available UKBF staff are in the arrivals hall to carry out necessary checks and allow passengers to pass through the border as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.”

London City Airport said passengers would be processed manually while the issue was ongoing and “may experience” longer wait times.

Heathrow Airport said: “Earlier today, a systems failure impacted the e-gates, which are staffed and operated by Border Force. This issue, which impacted a number of ports of entry, has since been resolved and the e-gates at Heathrow are back up and running again.

“Our teams remain on hand and are working with Border Force to monitor the situation, and to get passengers on their way as quickly as possible.”

Documentary maker Louis Theroux was among those forced to wait in long queues at the west London airport.

He wrote on Twitter: “Human logjam at Heathrow – apparently all the e gates at all the airports are down? That’s what the man just said.”

Other arriving passengers said they were being held on board aircraft due to the problem.

One traveller described Heathrow as a “joke” and predicted it would take him “four hours to get out”.

What are biometric passports?

Biometric passports have an embedded electronic microprocessor chip which contains biometric information which can authenticate the identity of the passport holder.

It uses contactless smart card technology, including a computer chip and antenna. These are embedded in the front or back cover, or centre page, of the passport.

More and more countries are using biometric passports. They were first issued in the UK in 2010 and are also known as e-passports.

A message from the editor:

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our email newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.