14 Feb 2011

Welcome to the UK. Hurry up and wait!

Re-entering the UK through Heathrow’s Terminal 3, courtesy of Egypt Air, felt as if the pre-Christmas ice age and its consequences were still with us. Accepting that BAA is trying to rebuild the thing, nevertheless, yesterday, the service provided an utterly undignified welcome to Britain.

Whether the blame lay with BAA or the UK Border Agency, the queues at immigration wound many times round the immigration hall. Half the desks were unstaffed at 1.00pm on Sunday, (lunch break? cuts?) there were some 1500 people waiting – even the ‘fast track’ took 30 minutes, the main queues had all the characteristics of the old US arrivals scene at JFK where one used to queue for over an hour.

To crown it all, the ‘iris’ recognition system, which I have used for the past two years and which normally takes a mere two minutes, was broken, both booths taped off.

My several trips in and out of Egypt on both BA and the Egyptian national airline have revived the old hobby horse that I have visited before in Snowblog – security. Whilst at Heathrow all liquids had to be ‘see-through’ plastic bagged, and removed from luggage, together with laptops, and boots removed – at Cairo, not one of these measures was pursued either by the Egyptian authorities or the airlines.

The ‘liquids’ issue continues to be a farce. The removal of laptops from luggage continues to be haphazard. There continues to be a need for an international ruling as to whether any of these measures are either relevant, or necessary, or whether they are simply designed to instil fear and vigilance in the hearts of the travelling public. If the latter, the measure has failed as badly as its enforcement has!

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