Heathrow Airport Immigration: What A Mess

Heathrow Airport Immigration: What A Mess

132

Unfortunately things went downhill pretty quickly after our incredible JetBlue Mint flight from New York to London

London Heathrow immigration lines galore

JetBlue operates out of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport. We arrived at Terminal 2B, the far pier that requires quite a walk to get to immigration. I had heard so many horror stories about Heathrow immigration wait times lately.

There wasn’t a single soul in sight as we began the long trek to the main part of the terminal, and I thought to myself we were in the clear, and that we lucked out due to our arrival time. Based on the planes at the terminal, it seemed that most arrivals were from Africa, India, and the Middle East, so I figured they got in at the crack of dawn, and perhaps 10AM was a good time to arrive.

Wrong.

As we entered the main immigration hall… OMG. I’ve never in my life seen an immigration line like this before. It wasn’t just that people couldn’t fit into the standard queuing area, but they had set up overflow queuing like I’ve never seen before.

All passengers, regardless of passport, got in a single line. It snaked in every direction possible in the terminal. I would conservatively guess that the line was half a mile long. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I wanted to respect peoples’ privacy and didn’t want to be yelled at, but hopefully the below gives you a sense of what I’m talking about (and this is only a very small portion of the line).

Heathrow Terminal 2 immigration checkpoint
Heathrow Terminal 2 immigration checkpoint

I have to give the queue management people credit — they designed the line in such a way that you never actually knew how much longer you’d have to wait, since it just kept curving around. You always thought that maybe you were nearing the end of the line, only to find out you were about to be sent in the opposite direction.

Suffice to say the vibe in the line was interesting as well. On one end of the spectrum you had people like this (honestly, 18+ months into the pandemic, is this is a joke, or does this person just have a different understanding of how coronavirus spreads than I do?)…

Not today, satan…

Then on the other end of the spectrum (or perhaps same end of the spectrum, depending on how you look at it), you had the lady behind me, who took off her mask the entire time yet kept complaining to me about how she was going to catch coronavirus in this line. She wouldn’t stop talking, and she kept trying to tell me “they call me the queen of Addis.” Alrighty then…

I was amused to overhear one of the queue control people tell a colleague “how many people are going to say ‘I’m a diplomat’ or ‘I’m a NATO specialist’ to try to jump the bloody queue.”

I have to say, while the line was beyond ridiculously long, it moved pretty quickly. The line got to the point where there wasn’t even overflow space for people anymore, so at that point they fully opened up the e-gates, and just let people through.

I believe the intent was for many people to be screened by an immigration officer given the UK’s entry requirements, but clearly they gave up on that.

In the end the wait was just over 90 minutes. Ultimately the line moved a lot faster than I was expecting given how long it was — this was definitely the biggest immigration line I’ve ever seen, and it was tied with Cancun Airport for my longest wait at immigration ever (which I guess makes me lucky, because I’ve heard of even longer waits).

Why are Heathrow immigration lines so long?

These unbelievably long immigration lines seem to be the standard at Heathrow for the past several weeks, especially as the country has increasingly opened up. In general there hasn’t been much accountability among officials from Border Force or Heathrow Airport.

Officials have simply acknowledged that there are “some delays” due to “additional spot checks to ensure passenger compliance with the UK Government’s latest entry requirements.”

That probably doesn’t quite due justice to the extent of the delays we’re seeing — even weeks into the country largely reopening, airport officials haven’t been able to state how long average wait times have been, and the response has simply been that officials are “looking into this.”

A Home Office spokesperson said the following about the wait times:

“Our utmost priority is protecting the safety and health of the public. That means, occasionally, passengers will need to accept an increase in the time taken to cross the border, especially during peak travel periods. We will never compromise on border security and continue to fulfil our vital function of keeping the border secure while checking that passengers are compliant with the current health measures.”

Essentially what it seems to come down to is that Border Force is understaffed (for unknown reasons), and officers insist on doing additional checks on many passengers.

Now, let me clear — I’m not trying to play victim here, especially as someone choosing to travel to the UK for non-essential reasons (which, to be clear, the country isn’t discouraging, but…). While I think the wait times are ridiculous and silly:

  • I think most travelers have heard of the horror stories of Heathrow immigration, so should expect that; if you’re traveling for non-essential reasons, you know what you’re getting yourself into, and you’re making a choice to take on that risk
  • I think it’s a bit disingenuous to play the “but Heathrow is putting us in danger” card while people are traveling for leisure; realistically speaking, the risk of catching coronavirus in an area with pretty consistent mask usage is probably low, at least compared to other venues, where masks are no longer the standard

Nonetheless, Heathrow is an absolute cluster-you-know-what right now…

Bottom line

Wait times at Heathrow Airport are pretty awful nowadays, so if you choose to enter the UK through the airport, come in expecting that. Go to the bathroom before getting in line, bring a bottle of water, etc.

While the immigration checkpoint had the longest line I’ve ever seen in my life (of any sort), it moved surprisingly quickly, and I was through within around 90 minutes.

If you’ve entered the UK through Heathrow in recent weeks or months, what was your experience like?

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  1. TA Guest

    I entered the UK through Heathrow in August and was harassed by one of the female border force officers to the point of having a seizure. She threw all my belongings out of my suitcase, yelled at me, stuck me in a brightly lit room for 8 hours after having a seizure. I have since made a complaint to which they refuse to hold the officer accountable. Never been treated so horrifically in my life;...

    I entered the UK through Heathrow in August and was harassed by one of the female border force officers to the point of having a seizure. She threw all my belongings out of my suitcase, yelled at me, stuck me in a brightly lit room for 8 hours after having a seizure. I have since made a complaint to which they refuse to hold the officer accountable. Never been treated so horrifically in my life; that officer has no business working for the public. Be careful, there are racist officers!

  2. Valeria Padalka Guest

    Hey there! Have you tried fast track at LHR? That is a service that guarantees no wait times un airport

  3. Monica Guss Guest

    Hey there! Great point! Same happened to me in Cancun AND DALLAS what resulted in missed flight. My boss usually books a fast track service in big city airports, apparently they meet you at the door of the plane, take you through all that immigration jazz in separate lane and rest is easy, luggage and his driver. You pay extra but where you need first. He uses universal sky guys at LHR, CDG and connections in ORD, apparently it’s ridiculous queues too

  4. Joey Guest

    I flew Jetblue JFK-LHR last week and I had a similar experience at arrivals Terminal 2. LONG queue.
    From checking the arrivals TV monitor, it looks like there was an Air India, SAS, Lufthansa, and Air Canada flights that arrived within the past hour before the JetBlue flight.
    The queue did move relatively 'fast' and all in all I was in the queue for 40-45 minutes. This was for e-gates. All the gates...

    I flew Jetblue JFK-LHR last week and I had a similar experience at arrivals Terminal 2. LONG queue.
    From checking the arrivals TV monitor, it looks like there was an Air India, SAS, Lufthansa, and Air Canada flights that arrived within the past hour before the JetBlue flight.
    The queue did move relatively 'fast' and all in all I was in the queue for 40-45 minutes. This was for e-gates. All the gates were open but some tend to not work (mine did not work and thus the lady asked me to go to the another and it worked!)
    What's longer was the Express Test covid test queue at T2 arrivals!
    Honestly though I loved the JetBlue flight JFK-LHR but did not enjoy the arrivals at LHR.

  5. Yogesh Sharma Guest

    Almost 7 horus queue, insane.

    SUGGESTION:
    Please carry folding stepping stools with snacks and water for the Immigration queue. I think that would help a bit.

  6. Mike Hampton Guest

    Hopefully this was just a one-off kurkuffle.

  7. Adrian Marshall Guest

    What a cluster

  8. Jim Radford Guest

    Just arrived Heathrow T5. Horribly long queues, pretty much all the breadth of the terminal, there and back. Same as described by a previous poster.

    Reason ? E-gates weren’t working, due to an IT problem. So everyone going through Border Force. Luckily for me, when I was halfway along the queue the gates opened again, and it was relatively quick after that. 45 mins to the gates. If I’d arrived 1 hr before it...

    Just arrived Heathrow T5. Horribly long queues, pretty much all the breadth of the terminal, there and back. Same as described by a previous poster.

    Reason ? E-gates weren’t working, due to an IT problem. So everyone going through Border Force. Luckily for me, when I was halfway along the queue the gates opened again, and it was relatively quick after that. 45 mins to the gates. If I’d arrived 1 hr before it would have been 1.45hr.
    So why the constant delays ?
    Plenty of examples of long queues from T2 & 5.
    This isn’t something that happened say in Aug, and is now fixed. It’s every single time in my experience. And seemingly a different excuse each time.
    This is on Border Force and UK gov. UK gov have said these queues are ‘unacceptable’, and yet here we are.
    UK gov can say what they like, but when nothing changes, it’s just empty words.
    Before the country opened up, delays were expected, as paperwork needed to be checked by hand.
    Now, it’s all electronic, so the delay shouldn’t be there.
    They claim that delays are because covid docs spot checks are carried out, but I haven’t seen 1 single person checked the last 3 trips I’ve done recently. This message is played over the tannoy too..
    So -
    Obviously frustrating - is it not enough Border Force on duty ?
    Whatever present system they have with the e-gates - they’ve had how long to get this right ??

    Apart from the obvious inconvenience for passengers, this is Heathrow in London for goodness sake, not some provincial airport that can’t cope with large numbers. This is the first thing people see when they arrive. And for the moment, it’s just embarrassing. And yes, it IS unacceptable.

  9. Andy Guest

    I had the, umm, pleasure of a near 2-hour immigration experience returning from Australia via SFO a couple of years ago. I realized it might be bad when I saw a sign stating "". If I fly direct to IAD, "US Citizens and Permanent Residents" are grouped together. That single experience prompted me to get Global Entry.

  10. Adrian Marshall Guest

    Does not look good, especially for connections

  11. Walnuts Guest

    US Passport holder. Landed at Heathrow and cleared immigration in under 20 minutes, arriving Friday night from an EU country.

    Went through the eGates with just a quick passport scan…. so much for investing all that time on my VeriFLY checklist, and that wasn’t asked for once either at the departure country airport or upon arrival in UK

  12. Paul Guest

    I breezed through immigartion after landing at 10.45 am on Virgin form Atlanta. Perhaps it's about how many other planes land at the same tiome as yours

  13. Andrew Guest

    There are only two officers to process a thousand people. 12 empty booths. Clearly the UK has no respect for people who are coming to visit there County. The simple solution is to hire more officers and have someone check COVID related documents before the immigration officer. This is very simple thing but the bureaucracy loves to see you wait.

  14. Joe1293 Guest

    Oh my God
    These comments …

  15. Marco Guest

    I have never entered the US in less than 90 minutes and that's with 'visa waiver' and some sort of self-check through (that speeds noting up) AND the US doesn't believe in transit so if you are going to Canada through LA, for example, you get the whole catastrophe. I can find no way to pay to speed the process up either.

  16. L3 Guest

    First, almost right on the reasons for the delay. As you guessed, it's got nothing to do with COVID (the world's greatest excuse right now). See the article below by a respected writer for "The Independent" for the full story:
    https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/passport-queues-heathrow-airport-border-force-uk-b1915008.html

    Second, the trick is to fly to Gatwick -- far shorter queues.

  17. Nick Riley Guest

    So Ben, you have decided to come to the UK via Heathrow at more or less the busiest weekend of the year as families make their way back in time to start the school week and are surprised at the queues then eh?

    It will be interesting to see if you post on your experiences when you go back to the US, lines there have been and are, as others have posted, experiencing extremely long waits too.

  18. James Ramil Guest

    Adding a data point…. Flew BA Seattle to Heathrow non-stop and landed around 11:40 a.m. on September 3rd. The wait for immigration was, er, there was no wait—walked straight to an available machine. Literally just the folks on our plane and a couple others going though the e-gates and regular staffed gates. I’m on a US passport, but I think timing is a huge factor at Heathrow.

  19. Stan Guest

    You haven’t really waited in immigration at Heathrow until you’ve spent over 2 hours in the queue

  20. MV Invoices Guest

    Try being a non US citizen entering America. Multi hour long waits at LAX, SFO, JFK, etc. are par for the course.

    1. Joe Guest

      I thought Biden changed that to make it easier

  21. Andrew Guest

    Hopefully this won’t affect transit passengers. I’m connecting via LHR in two weeks to a CPH flight.

  22. Van Guest

    Weird indeed, was transiting through LHR T5 on Saturday (9/4) morning around 915am. Passed by the Border Force immigration hall and there was barely a queue.

  23. Stuart Guest

    As a current data point. I cleared today (Sunday) in under 10 minutes through the EGates at T5. Arrived at 1:40PM from MUC. was on the Heathrow Express from the plane in under 20 minutes. I admit to dreading things as I read that the night before the waits were reaching over 4 hours. Even CNN had a story of people passing out while waiting. I guess timing is everything in that it's better to be on the back end of these things.

  24. KK13 Member

    I have had to wait for more than 90 mins at IAD, twice, while I flew in from Doha. It could be based on the timing and how many flights land around that time.

  25. Cecilia Guest

    Does the Immigration Line at Terminal 2 also include other terminals? Or do they have their own? Our airplane arrives at 7 am in Early October. We are seated right behind Business Class and we"ll be ready to deplane quickly. We will use the toilet on the plane prior to landing. We will have our documents in hand for the Immigration. We have a perk of our luggage unloading first and hoping for a short time in the airport.

  26. Martin Guest

    You think 90 minutes is long? 90 minutes is my average wait time for US immigration. Doesn’t matter if LAX; SFO, JFK or MIA…. always a mess!!!

  27. Paul Guest

    I travelled through Heathrow (T2) today and I was through the e gates in 10 minutes
    The issue appears to be with those who can’t use the e gates, such as families

  28. JohnSF New Member

    I think the problem is staffing. They do not have enough immigration officers to handle the required Covid era entry restrictions. IME, the immigration officers at LHR are reasonable but very thorough. LHR has been one of the only places they actually make me dig out my onward flight confirmation to show them.

    I spent a night at an LHR airport hotel in late July to wait for a flight to the US. Coming on...

    I think the problem is staffing. They do not have enough immigration officers to handle the required Covid era entry restrictions. IME, the immigration officers at LHR are reasonable but very thorough. LHR has been one of the only places they actually make me dig out my onward flight confirmation to show them.

    I spent a night at an LHR airport hotel in late July to wait for a flight to the US. Coming on AF on the last flight of the night which was delayed for a couple of hours and we did not land at LHR until maybe 11:30 PM. There were no other flights at that time of night going through immigration and when I hit the immigration line in T2 there were only about 5 people in front of us with only 2 immigration officers working, the rest of the plane trickled in behind. It took about 10 minutes to clear the 5 in front of us and there there were 100+ passengers behind us. It would be long wait for those in the back.

    At the baggage carousel so many bags came out that the smart system would not feed more bags onto the carousel until it sensed an empty spot but at this point the immigration line must have jammed because no one else was making it through to claim luggage so I had to shift the bags on the belt to make enough room for the automated sensor to spit out a few more bags which fortunately included ours. It took us about 10 minutes to get our bags and only as we were leaving did another couple of passengers arrive at the carousel from immigration. Very slow. Walk quickly to be near the front otherwise you may have a long wait. We were fortunate we arrived so late there were no other flights coming in or it could have been much worse. The main problem I see is the staffing shortage. They need more people!

  29. Victoria Guest

    I’m a “Registered Traveler” in UK and have always gone through dedicated line. Is that no longer possible❓‍♀️❓

  30. Ian Guest

    90 minutes. Still better than than JFK T7….2 hours last time pre-pandemic.

  31. Santastico Guest

    How was the line for EU members? Wasn’t there a special for business class passengers? I only fly Delta to London and they give a little card that you present at the Immigration hall that gives you access to a special line. It goes way faster.

  32. Miller508 Guest

    Nice France, LHR to BOS, we have just a 2 hour layover next month

    Both flights on BA metal business class

    Do we need to go through immigration when we are staying airside?

  33. Anthony Thomas Guest

    Unfortunate, but not the norm. Stories like this haven't been seen for quite a while, so it's likely a one-off. I flew in/out in August and it was very quick.

    Of course, my next flight could be like this. hopefully not!

  34. simonthescientist Guest

    travelled through T3 (on 8/23 flying american from PHL in Biz). used the E-gates on a us passport. maybe 4-5 mins total wait, completely stunned after I had expected to be in line for ages... the lines checked by borderforce were really long but not quite out of the arrivals hall so the E-gates were still accessible.

  35. flying100 Member

    A friend of mine told me that now (the last few days) they officially opened the e-gates and if you're passport doesn't match a locator form the gate doesn't open and you have to go to the immigration officer.

    So probably now the queues are getting shorter.

    Don't know if the test or vaccination record also need to match.

  36. Wilhelm Guest

    That’s not even an average US immigration queue. Africa, Middle East and South Asian nationals are also more likely to overstay their visas, hence are given the third degree by immigration officials.

    Heathrow queues are also particularly bad in August, as the amount of tourists and the arrival of foreign students coincide. This has been the case way before Covid.

  37. G C Guest

    Not trying to defend the UK Border Force, but I flew into ORD in July, and the queue for immigration was over 4 hours! And this is just American citizens and Green card holders arriving. It was truly awful!

  38. Anthony Guest

    It is difficult to figure out what are the objectives and goals of the UK government.
    Reported this week billions lost of UK trade to the EU due to Brexit complications, can't get goods out of the UK. This after 6 months going.
    The airport fiasco, long lines, cancellations, has been re-occurring for months now. This week is nothing new.

    Perhaps they wish to kill their economy in the Brexit year and make...

    It is difficult to figure out what are the objectives and goals of the UK government.
    Reported this week billions lost of UK trade to the EU due to Brexit complications, can't get goods out of the UK. This after 6 months going.
    The airport fiasco, long lines, cancellations, has been re-occurring for months now. This week is nothing new.

    Perhaps they wish to kill their economy in the Brexit year and make fantastic comeback in a few years?

    Maybe a strategy, but certainly suffering for the masses.

  39. Michele Guest

    It was particularly bad last week due to the Afghanistan refugees arriving combined with a bank holiday at the end of school holidays. I have been through a number of times this summer and waited maybe 30 minutes tops. However it has been a mess frequently and there is a lot of speculation it’s deliberate to discourage travel. All employees that were given paid leave or furlough as we call it are due back by...

    It was particularly bad last week due to the Afghanistan refugees arriving combined with a bank holiday at the end of school holidays. I have been through a number of times this summer and waited maybe 30 minutes tops. However it has been a mess frequently and there is a lot of speculation it’s deliberate to discourage travel. All employees that were given paid leave or furlough as we call it are due back by the end of the month so it will be interesting to see if it improves then.

  40. WW Guest

    You also forgot to mention that it was a 'Bank' Holiday weekend, in the UK. Which frequently means, less staff! The UK NHS Covid phone-app, alerting you of a close contact, with an infectious person... certainly does not help matters. (A 'ping'-demic!)

  41. AA Guest

    T3 from JFK last month on Virgin (day flight, so 8pm-ish landing). Plane to kerbside in 5 mins - no line whatsoever at immigration, straight through the e-gates, and no checks of anything regarding booked tests and PLF.

  42. Dan Guest

    One of the causes of the lack of staff is due to them processing and trying to find all the illegal immigrants invading our shorelines at all hours then couple this with the high commitment numbers to Afghan refugees makes things worse.

  43. Philip Guest

    I arrived into T5 twice this summer, both times on a Friday afternoon. While queues stretched into the corridor I ultimately cleared e-Gates with a German passport in less than 10 minutes.

  44. Ziggy Guest

    Based on my trips, T5 is consistently fine and T2 is consistently bad. I’ve only arrived into T3 once (it was empty) so don’t have enough data to draw a conclusion on that terminal.

  45. A former airline manager. Guest

    Welcome to so-called "Global Britain".

    Priti Patel, Grant Shapps and Boris Johnson are destroying the UK air transport industry (and others, but let's stick with this one). It's their fault we have super-restrictive travel policies while, at the same time, a lax regime on mask-wearing in the country.

    The sooner they go, the better for the industry. Already tens of thousands of jobs have gone - including mine - many more will follow.

  46. Xandrios Guest

    I'm sorry to say, but if you believe that the chances of catching coronavirus in that environment are low.. You may have a very different view on things than others. Simple surgical masks will not protect you much in an environment like that.

  47. Zach B Guest

    My experience when arriving via Paris last week was that it was fine for the most part. The line for immigration wasn't so long and moved fast as it was for security into the Schengen area from our JFK flight that took time for us to go through. We were one of the first flights of the day so they didn't have all the lanes open. But experience wasn't too bad overall.

  48. Vic Guest

    My longest was 2 hours pre-pandemic, arriving from Frankfurt at 8am when I realised that the 7am arrivals were still in the queue. But as a non US and non UK citizen, I have spent even longer at JFK and DFW, with the extra nastiness CBP officers serve to everyone. At least that is uncommon in UK.

  49. David Rebbitt Guest

    90 mins would have been considered a win for entry via JFK in the 1980s. What a blessing BA001 was when you could go through US entry at Shannon with the other 10-20 people on the flight: no queue, choose the friendliest looking immigration officer.

  50. Viataro Guest

    Anyone who’s been late off the plane at LUN or LOS will know 90 minutes isn’t a longer queue !

    1. Wilhelm Guest

      Being a brown envelope next time

  51. Mike Guest

    It took me 3.5 hours to arrive from Athens to T2. Then another 3.5 hours waiting .

    I made the mistake to travel with ID card.
    If i had my European Passport for the egates, then i would had finished in less than one hour, so brings your passports.

    Travelling often to T2 before covid, it is the first time to see this mess .

  52. Anthony Parr Guest

    I arrived into T2 from San Francisco at about 10.15am on Saturday 9/4. From plane to Piccadilly Line was 40 minutes which seemed fine.

    I did take me two hours to get from Heathrow to the West End though.

  53. Stephen Morrissey Guest

    This reminds me of immigration/customs in Marrakech. Dreadful.
    Never had a problem with lines at Heathrow pre-Covid so it will be interesting when we return to London next month.

    Sigh....

    1. Will in SFO Guest

      LOL. The irony in this post. 90 mins is nothing compared to what is experienced in the US (pre Covid). In fact I can’t remember the last time I entered the US to not find my bags still on the baggage belt (and that is as a visa holder who lives and works in the States). Normally my bags are piled high off to the side. Anything sub 2 hours would be a win

    2. Will in SFO Guest

      God the comments section on the new site are off from mobile. @stephen my reply to was meant to be to Ben’s original post not yours.

  54. Audrey Guest

    Arrived at LHR Teminal 2 yesterday (September 4). No line, no screening, through the gates in under 10 minutes.

    Despite all the focus on the Covid tests and passenger locator forms, at no time were we ever asked to show our vaccine cards, including when checking in/boarding in Newark. And the requirement for Day 2 testing here, while basically meaningless (the majority of options are self testing at home with no supervision), is an...

    Arrived at LHR Teminal 2 yesterday (September 4). No line, no screening, through the gates in under 10 minutes.

    Despite all the focus on the Covid tests and passenger locator forms, at no time were we ever asked to show our vaccine cards, including when checking in/boarding in Newark. And the requirement for Day 2 testing here, while basically meaningless (the majority of options are self testing at home with no supervision), is an expensive and cumbersome hoop to jump through.

  55. glenn t Diamond

    Oh Ben Ben, Ben...... If you arrive at LHR at any time of day and see arrived planes from India, Africa and the Middle East, expect long delays at Immigration, Covid or no Covid!
    90 minutes is nothing and you should be pleased at that. I've spent longer at JFK too often.
    Now, the matter of long lines (or queues since you're talking about England). You need to understand that the British love...

    Oh Ben Ben, Ben...... If you arrive at LHR at any time of day and see arrived planes from India, Africa and the Middle East, expect long delays at Immigration, Covid or no Covid!
    90 minutes is nothing and you should be pleased at that. I've spent longer at JFK too often.
    Now, the matter of long lines (or queues since you're talking about England). You need to understand that the British love and adore queues! They queue for everything, even if as few as 2 people. A sloppy queue disintegrating into a rabble would surely signal the end of democracy and indeed civilisation.
    Lastly, Border Control on a daily basis seems surprised and overwhelmed at the flood of thousands of arrivals from scheduled flights from all over the world descending upon them from 6am onwards. Best to arrive around 10pm when it's a walkthrough !

  56. Jake Guest

    Tell me you have Global Entry without telling me you have Global Entry ;)

  57. Richard_ New Member

    If "Heathrow is putting us in danger”, then it's putting the UK in danger, because all of those people are going to enter the UK and further spread the virus.

    The UK already has one of the highest infection rates in the world. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-cases.html

  58. Ans Guest

    90 min is nothing compared to 5 H at LAX last year at the beginning of the lockdown.
    March 14 2020!!

  59. VitaliU Guest

    We were at Heathrow in late August and it took us about 30 minutes from the time the aircraft door opened to when we got into our cab.
    No immigration on the way out (obviously) but the security took maybe 10 minutes.

  60. Paul Guest

    I flew into Heathrow pre Covid, 3 hour wait!
    Next day chatting to a fellow traveller in the city, he had endured over 4 hours!

  61. Gil Guest

    I must have been very lucky as I flew AA 100 from JFK into T5 (B Gates) about 3 weeks ago. I believe that only the JFK AA flights are still using T5. The flight landed around 6:25 and I was on the tube by 6:40. I was directed to the E-gates at immigration and was thru in less than 30 seconds.

    1. DoDo Guest

      I don't find that Lucky is necessarily entitled blah blah blah... 90mins wait is just ridiculous and such a waste of time.

      I never had to wait in a line for more than 15mins at any US immigration.
      And I am an US Visa holder.
      PDX/SJC are really quick. It's also depending on where your flight is coming from as well. (Ex: if your flight is from India or China, their lines won't move quick)

  62. Sam G Guest

    @Ben part of the issue recently has apparently been the need to send officers to T4 to process Afghan refugee arrivals. Though it was in the news again here in the UK this weekend so does seem to be an ongoing issue.

    Haven't heard reports from anywhere else so might be an idea to take the Gatwick flight instead if anyone else is trying out Jetblue!

  63. Stefan Guest

    Welcome to the real world, Ben. If you had ever entered the US with a foreign, non-diplomatic passport you wouldn't have bothered to write this piece.

    I remember one particular bad time in Washington, D.C. There were many windows open for US residents, they passed through in a breeze. Hundreds of foreigners were lining up with just two or three windows open. To add insult to injury, there were posters all over claiming that Immigration...

    Welcome to the real world, Ben. If you had ever entered the US with a foreign, non-diplomatic passport you wouldn't have bothered to write this piece.

    I remember one particular bad time in Washington, D.C. There were many windows open for US residents, they passed through in a breeze. Hundreds of foreigners were lining up with just two or three windows open. To add insult to injury, there were posters all over claiming that Immigration was ramping up its services. The catch phrase was 'One Face at the Border'. As I complained to one of the officers, she said 'please send a complaint, we are tired to deal with angry passengers, the people upstairs have to hear it from you.' I did, saying that I was quite disappointed, that 'One Face at the Border' actually meant just one INS officer dealing with hundreds of passengers.

    Needless to say, I never received a reply.

  64. Hank Tarn Guest

    I wish America would make the borders harder too. It is too easy for foreigners to enter America, we banned Europeans and Brits, but still allow people from non western places like Russia into America? Why are we still allowing Turkish entry but not Germany or Sweden?

    I do not understand Biden’s (really Kamala and Obama) Administration.

  65. Azamaraal Guest

    I don't want to be overly rude but this is spoken as an entitled American who has NEVER had to stand in YOUR immigration lines.

    Landed in Miami from the UK with a Canadian Passport and luckily was at the front of the airplane thus 'first' in line. Stood in a short international line for over two hours watching two US immigration lines empty of anyone and the agents just sitting there. The people at...

    I don't want to be overly rude but this is spoken as an entitled American who has NEVER had to stand in YOUR immigration lines.

    Landed in Miami from the UK with a Canadian Passport and luckily was at the front of the airplane thus 'first' in line. Stood in a short international line for over two hours watching two US immigration lines empty of anyone and the agents just sitting there. The people at the back of the plane were in line over 4 hours.

    Was connecting to Bahamas and missed three flights because of the unnecessary delay.

    Similar experiences at LAX and DFW so don't complain about 90 minutes at the height of the pandemic. Try your own lines some time! (Although I must admit that things are a little better).

    1. Wilhelm Guest

      I witnessed a Scottish family with two small kids get the third degree at JFK. How they would represent any form of risk outside of spending too many Scottish pounds in the wonderful city of New York begets me. Waste of time by the immigration agent, but I guess that’s how he got his job. Knock on wood, I’ve never had issues with US immigration, and with one exception it’s been fairly swift.

  66. JS Guest

    Airlines used to hand out passes to first and business class passengers for “fast track” immigration lane at LHR, which would save considerable time when the crowds were large. Presumably not these days…..??

  67. EU Traveller Guest

    As a US citizen you enjoy a quick immigration check at US airports. This is sometimes as bad as you had at LHR for non-US citizens arriving at US airports

  68. Robert Fahr Guest

    Andrew has it right. Land after noon or even better take a day flight from the US and land in the evening. Anyone have recent queue times on evening arrivals?

  69. James Guest

    Arrived into LHR T5 at 11am on 4 September. No queue for e-gates so was through in 20 seconds. Lines to see an immigration officer - e.g. for families - were short too (at a guess, <5 mins).

  70. Amin Guest

    I think you were just unlucky that day.

  71. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    This is reason enough to fly into Manchester, Edinburgh or any other UK airport with flights from Canada or the US. Do Newcastle and Birmingham still have flights?

  72. sdfmily New Member

    - Arrived on 8/19, US Passport
    - Virgin Atlantic LAX-LHR, Terminal 2, 2:15ish
    - Walked right through e-gates
    People were stopping to pull out all their paperwork as the signage in the airport said to have it ready. I had all mine on my phone and no one asked to see it. Easy!!

  73. Andrew Guest

    LAX-LHR AA arriving T3 1:15pm Aug 24, 2021 - off the plane and through customs in 7min

  74. Icarus Guest

    Oh the irony of an American commenting about queues at Heathrow. Even before Covid that’s normal at most US gateways.

    With all the onerous restrictions now, why the surprise.

    They should also stop Americans visiting Europe until we can visit there, unless they have visas or essential reasons to travel.

    1. Sam G Guest

      Yes agree...done plenty of 2+hr lines at many US airports over the years

  75. Bill Guest

    Sounds a lot like Disney World.

    1. Airfarer Guest

      That's because British Border Force, run by the Home Office, is living in fantasy land when it comes to organizing any immigration procedures into the UK.

  76. Bob Guest

    I do not know if you can still do it, but pre-covid, when once I deplanned in T5, with no-luggage to pick, seeing long lines at iummigration, I took the Conection sign direction, then the bus to T4 and entered the uk from there.
    It was no wait-times. It is also as I am an UE citizen coming from the EU.

  77. Chris Guest

    We got very lucky on our JetBlue flight 2 weeks ago. We landed Saturday 8/21 at around 9:25 AM at the B gates in Terminal 2. After the 15 minute walk through the tunnels, etc. we proceeded directly to the eGates, most of which were in operation, and were through the border in just minutes. The lines for those not eligible to use the eGates were not very long either and everything was staffed well. Guess we just got lucky.

  78. Leon Guest

    Might be a timing thing. I literally just flew into LHR T2 this weekend and only waited 20 minutes or so for eGates (with an American passport). My flight landed at around 8 AM, I believe.

  79. Pierre Guest

    2.30 PM Terminal 5, conecting from CDG (BA) to JFK (AA), seemingly no trace of a line. I was tempted to go out and re-check in the "First" Pavillion with direct access to the lounge, but I didn't do it as my "Passenger Locator form" indicated a simple transit in LHR with no access to the outside world. I didn't want risking being caught.

    Security, on the other hand, was pretty bad, with all "Fast...

    2.30 PM Terminal 5, conecting from CDG (BA) to JFK (AA), seemingly no trace of a line. I was tempted to go out and re-check in the "First" Pavillion with direct access to the lounge, but I didn't do it as my "Passenger Locator form" indicated a simple transit in LHR with no access to the outside world. I didn't want risking being caught.

    Security, on the other hand, was pretty bad, with all "Fast Track" channels closed.

    As to AA now split between T5 (JFK) and T3 (everything else), it is a complete mess which confuses passengers, especially as nobody in T5 seems aware of the situation and there was no AA agent in sight.

  80. D G Guest

    Does someone flying from US to Scotland landed at HTR have to pass through this immigration process to reach connecting flight or do you go directly to connecting flight and deal with immigration at final destination in this case Edinburg UK?

    1. Bagoly Guest

      Immigration at LHR.
      To Scotland is then Domestic with no Immigration or Customs control (although airline checks Passport against boarding pass)

  81. Weymar Osborne Member

    Do international connecting passengers still have to go through immigration in the UK like they do in the US? If so, this is quite a compelling reason to choose another airline and point of entry.

    1. Wilhelm Guest

      The US is one of the very few countries in the world with that requirement. Even Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran don’t do that. Imagine the following conversation:

      Immigration agent: you can’t get in
      Passenger: I don’t want to get in
      Immigration agent: but you can’t get in

    2. Never In Doubt Guest

      Lisbon required immigration on a connection.

    3. Cecilia Guest

      Your are a Transit Passenger. You do not got through Immigration or Security when changing gates even if you need to go out of a different terminal.

  82. Grey Member

    Quite shocked that 90 minutes is your longest immigration queue time. No wonder you call yourself Lucky.

  83. Leo Guest

    There is no expectations of privacy when on public. So go ahead with pictures next time

  84. Daniel from Finland Guest

    For a European, 90 minutes is not at all unusual at US immgration (pre-pandemic).

  85. Jeff Guest

    Wow. Shocked it was only 90 min. Lisbon a few weeks ago was over 2 hours for nonEU and they didn’t even check the mandatory negative tests.

  86. Sean M. Guest

    90 minutes at Heathrow would be considered a win even before the pandemic.

  87. Ian Guest

    Wow...very interesting and what a difference to what I just experienced entering the UK.

    I entered yesterday from the US and was shocked the the eGates were open and there was not a single Border Force agent checking anything for US arrivals (absolutely zero COVID documentation checking). A single swipe of the passport at the eGates was all anyone on my flight needed to do. There was zero interaction with another human unless you had...

    Wow...very interesting and what a difference to what I just experienced entering the UK.

    I entered yesterday from the US and was shocked the the eGates were open and there was not a single Border Force agent checking anything for US arrivals (absolutely zero COVID documentation checking). A single swipe of the passport at the eGates was all anyone on my flight needed to do. There was zero interaction with another human unless you had something to declare and I made it thru the UK border in less than 5 minutes.

    1. SKF Guest

      Ian,

      I am curious to here about your follow on experience with testing in the UK, assuming you are staying longer than two days.

    2. sdfmily New Member

      I will answer with my experience.
      - Before leaving US: BinaxNow with eMed proctor (results within minutes)
      - in UK: ordered test from Randox Health delivered to hotel. Was waiting when I arrived. On day 1, took test and dropped off sample at Randox drop box. (results arrived in less than 24 hours)
      - Before leaving UK: BinaxNow with eMed proctor (results within minutes)
      All really easy. No problems and no COVID. ;)

    3. SKF Guest

      Thanks for the response. Any issues with the return to US. I head over next week for a week and have have my 2 day test scheduled, though at a physical location, did not know about ordering the test to the hotel. I have to schedule the test for my return.

    4. Ian Guest

      SFK,

      I ended up ordering a self swab kit through a company called "Randox" and had it shipped to my UK hotel so it was waiting when I arrived. I took it at the hotel and then dropped it in one of their drop boxes in London. The results got emailed to me the next day. For me, it served the dual purpose of satisfying the UK requirement and being another test result I could...

      SFK,

      I ended up ordering a self swab kit through a company called "Randox" and had it shipped to my UK hotel so it was waiting when I arrived. I took it at the hotel and then dropped it in one of their drop boxes in London. The results got emailed to me the next day. For me, it served the dual purpose of satisfying the UK requirement and being another test result I could use for an onwards trip to Italy. I don't think anyone from the UK side is really checking on Day 2 results though.

  88. Marc Guest

    Seems like it’s really hit and miss these days. Arrived at T2 from ZRH around 1pm this Monday. Long queue for „other passports“ but eGates were open and virtually zero waiting time.

  89. Ronaldo Guest

    This is not worse experience than most US visa holders face when entering the country. Before Covid I was caught twice in 3+ hours long in IAD, and several 1+ long in EWR or JFK.

    1. Andy Guest

      Agree, I waited usually 3+ hours at IAD pre COVID (before I had Global Entry), once it was even 4 ½ hours there ...

    2. Adam Simmons Guest

      .....which confirms my decision to only fly from Ireland out of all European countries to the US is a sound one. Arriving on a 'domestic' flight from Dublin a couple of years ago was a breeze!

    3. Mick Guest

      100%.

      Americans don’t realize their own country is such a pain to enter on a visa because they dedicate 9/10 officers to their line while foreigners wait hours with kids to get through.

  90. Never In Doubt Guest

    Arrived 2 Mondays ago into Lisbon. There was only one person ahead of me in the non-EU passport line.

    Flying to Heathrow tomorrow afternoon, Terminal 5. Fingers crossed!

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      Landed Terminal 5 at 3pm today.

      When we arrived at the immigration area there was a ridiculous queue, but it was all just getting the people who couldn’t use the egates into the Disney-esque back and forth area. We were through in less than 10 minutes.

  91. InceptionCat Guest

    And here i was complaining 2 wks ago that the immigration at Frankfurt airport was a mess. I don't even think i waited 30mins.

    1. Tk Guest

      I just went thru Frankfurt yesterday, not for a connection but a long layover with a different airline & there was no line, which was slightly surprising.

  92. Golfingboy Guest

    Athens was pretty bad this morning (around 1pm). I know it was a breeze when you went to Greece as it was just mere weeks after they opened the borders.

    The line was so bad earlier today that we couldn’t board our flight on time because immigration was backed up that people were stuck lined up in the corridor between gates A5 and A7. The line backed all the way from immigration up to...

    Athens was pretty bad this morning (around 1pm). I know it was a breeze when you went to Greece as it was just mere weeks after they opened the borders.

    The line was so bad earlier today that we couldn’t board our flight on time because immigration was backed up that people were stuck lined up in the corridor between gates A5 and A7. The line backed all the way from immigration up to the stairs and escalators to the sterile corridor.

    The irony? The people who were stuck in the corridor waiting for the escalator to head down to immigration arrived on a BA flight from LHR.

    There needs to be a better system to verify COVID related documentations (advance electronic upload and verification or a separate checkpoint prior to passport control with contract workers) that way the immigration officers can focus on processing people across the border.

    1. DCA Will Always Be "National" Guest

      Came through ATH three days ago and it was a breeze. Looked like the fire department was checking Covid data and PLFs at a makeshift checkpoint (along with testing cubbies), then immigration was a cakewalk. Total time from plane to curb was about 15 minutes. This was at about 9.00 in the morning on a Sunday, though.

  93. Luke Guest

    I arrived into T2 on Aug 13 and had a completely different experience. There was a separate, shorter line for ePassports that took you to the eGates and that took maybe 5 minutes. Didn’t see any crazy line, so I wonder what changed.

    1. Wilhelm Guest

      Nothing - it’s just that a lot of flights landed at the same time. I’ve breezed through all terminals, but also seen massive queues. Hit the wrong time and you’re stuck.

  94. Vinod Guest

    I flew on BA into Terminal 5 a couple of weeks ago. Immigration was a breeze ~ 2 mins at about 11am

    1. Matt Guest

      Agree. I’ve arrived into T5 several times over the Summer and not had much issue including last Monday night when it was 9 mins to get through.

      Maybe it’s just a morning or T2 thing.

      LCY took much longer than any recent experience I’ve had at LHR.

      in recent years I have been in queues of over 2 hours at MIA, DFW, LAX and JFK.

  95. Alonzo Gold

    This is just further evidence that nobody should be traveling right now outside of absolute necessity. Traveling for leisure is irresponsible.

    1. Pete Guest

      Agreed plain and simple. Best to save your money and travel when it is appropriate. Now is definitely not the time. Nor will it be for months-years if people are doing non-essential traveling/gatherings.

    2. Nicholas Nickoloff Guest

      Then why are your reading a travel blog.

    3. Steven L. Gold

      Because the planes and hotels and the like will still exist when the situation improves.

      Hopefully, at any rate.

  96. 305 Guest

    If this is just a T2 thing (no priority lanes for citizens and/or business class pax) then it’s another big flaw of JetBlue LHR service. That and no lounge upon departure (let alone an arrivals lounge) are huge negatives for the time conscious business traveler

    1. Adam Simmons Guest

      No, not just T2. I read an article yesterday about how disastrous T5 queues were as well.

  97. Frog Guest

    ….and on the other hand immigration at Schiphol with an EU passport took me about 60 seconds last week.

  98. Eskimo Guest

    Honestly, 18+ months into the pandemic, it's still too soon to say we know all about the virus.

    One thing that's even discussed less is the PTSD from Covid.
    That person in full PPE might be suffering from that. Or hoarded thousands of those from last year and needs to get rid of them.

  99. John T Guest

    Fun fact : Queues at Disneyland are designed so you can't see most of the rest of the queue.

    If you're constantly slowly moving through the queue you feel like you could get to the front at any moment but because you can't see the rest of the queue you don't realise you're nowhere near the front.

    1. Pierre Guest

      Makes sense... Heathrow Airport is increasingly looking like a Disneyland from Hell.

    2. GSHLGB Guest

      Yes, that is correct, that said... they also post wait times at the front of each ride... usually wildly over estimating the wait.

  100. Chris Guest

    Ohare had 2 hours last week. They got rid of all the automated machines and mobile passport that sped things up as well.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

L3 Guest

First, almost right on the reasons for the delay. As you guessed, it's got nothing to do with COVID (the world's greatest excuse right now). See the article below by a respected writer for "The Independent" for the full story: https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/passport-queues-heathrow-airport-border-force-uk-b1915008.html Second, the trick is to fly to Gatwick -- far shorter queues.

1
Mick Guest

100%. Americans don’t realize their own country is such a pain to enter on a visa because they dedicate 9/10 officers to their line while foreigners wait hours with kids to get through.

1
Wilhelm Guest

I witnessed a Scottish family with two small kids get the third degree at JFK. How they would represent any form of risk outside of spending too many Scottish pounds in the wonderful city of New York begets me. Waste of time by the immigration agent, but I guess that’s how he got his job. Knock on wood, I’ve never had issues with US immigration, and with one exception it’s been fairly swift.

1
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