Recently I wrote about how immigration wait times at London Heathrow airport had reached 2.5 hours.
I also wrote about how, in these situations, paying for the Registered Traveller program has been money well spent for me. This allows me to skip the ‘normal’ immigration lines and use the electronic gates for European Economic Area nationals when arriving in the UK, where I have never waited more than a few minutes each time to use them.
The UK Government has just delivered their annual budget in Parliament. They have made a surprising but welcome announcement that from mid-2019, passport holders from the following countries will be able to use automated e-gates when arriving in the United Kingdom (without having to register for, or pay for, the Registered Traveller program):
- United States
- New Zealand
Chancellor of the Exchequer (how’s that for a title?) Philip Hammond said the decision was made by the UK Government to:
Send a message loud and clear to the rest of the world that Britain is open for business.
This is in the wake of the economic uncertainty that Brexit has brought with it, as the UK prepares to leave the European Union from late March next year.
While this is wonderful news (I’ll happily stop paying for Registered Traveller if it becomes free), I hope in the period from now until the scheme commences that additional e-gates will be built where necessary to handle the greatly increased number of people using the e-gates.
This is because if the lengthy queues simply shift from the ‘normal’ line to the e-gates line and the wait periods are the same, it will negate much of the benefit of the e-gate concept.
I can especially see additional e-gates being necessary in Heathrow Terminal 3 during the morning periods, as there are many flights from the US arriving on Delta, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines within a short space of time (noting some of these flights listed below are codeshares i.e. where’s there are flights from the same cities at the exact same time).
Terminal 5 also has plenty of morning arrivals from the US and Canada especially.
I would note that most times I pass through the e-gates at any London airport, only about 50-70% of the e-gates are open anyway, so if they can operate 100% of them during peak period they may be able to get away with not installing any more at certain airports/terminals, though I’ll be interested to see how it works at Heathrow Terminal 3.
I’m not looking forward to the UK leaving the European Union next year (I personally think it will be remembered as the biggest mistake Britain made during my lifetime), but I certainly welcome no longer having to pay for Registered Traveller next year.
I just hope they properly assess the number of additional eligible passport holders who will be using the e-gates so the wait times don’t change. They have all the data from those landing cards they supposedly do something with, and the time to build additional e-gates where necessary.
Will you be able to use e-gates from mid next year?