Passengers face long queues as travel corridors scrapped

Passengers arriving in the UK on Monday faced long queues as new coronavirus travel rules came into force.

Some of the earliest arrivals at London’s Heathrow Airport said it had taken more than an hour to be processed due to “substantial” lines at passport control.

The aviation industry called for ministers to ensure they have a plan in place for when restrictions can be eased.

New rules requiring arrivals to take a negative coronavirus test up to 72 hours before departure and self-isolate for up to 10 days after entering the UK came into effect at 4am on Monday as travel corridors offering exemptions were scrapped.

The move is part of the Government’s attempts to prevent new strains of Covid-19 entering the UK.

Coronavirus – Mon Jan 18, 2021
Coronavirus – Mon Jan 18, 2021

Andy Hart, from London, who arrived at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 from Nairobi with his partner on Monday morning, said he was “shocked and disappointed” to see the queues at passport control.

The Coffy app chief executive said: “We felt unsafe. We felt that, even though everyone was masked, they were far too close together.

“It took an hour and 10 minutes.

“I’ve been flying 30 times a year for 20 years. I mean, once or twice have I ever seen it (airport queues) like this.

“How can this happen during Covid times?”

Richard Bradley also arrived from Nairobi with his son Joseph after a Christmas break with family.

Mr Bradley, who works in media and was returning to his home in Oxford, described the queue at passport control as “pretty substantial”, saying it took around an hour and a half to get through.

He said there was a “triple check” of people’s passports, proof of a negative Covid-19 test and their passenger locator form.

He said: “There were a couple of people in our queue whose tests may have been outside the required 72 hours so that was causing a lot of grief and discussion.”

Travel corridors were a lifeline for the travel industry when they were introduced in summer 2020, as struggling firms saw a spike in bookings for destinations added to the list.

Karen Dee, chief executive of trade body the Airport Operators Association, supported the decision to remove them but stressed the need for “a clear pathway out”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve had the worst year in the entire history of our industry so the sooner we can get flying again safer, the better.”

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the loss of travel corridors will not have a “significant impact” on his airline in the short term as flight numbers were already limited due to the pandemic.

He told Today that the minimum number of days arrivals must wait to take a negative test releasing them from quarantine could be reduced from five days to three days.

“We know that there’s a big difference between people’s willingness to sacrifice to go and travel if you have to quarantine for 10 days or 14 days, down to five days or even three days,” he said.

“So it’s really, really important that, as part of the plan for recovery, the Government also has the plan to unwind these restrictions that are in place.”

The Department for Transport announced on Monday that high-value business travellers, performing arts professionals and journalists have lost their exemption from travel restrictions.

Other people who must now abide by the rules include those working in “high-end” television production and film, ornamental horticulture, advertising and the National Lottery.

Aircraft crew, hauliers, offshore oil and gas workers and people involved in elite sport are among those whose exemptions remain.