Airport queues 'depend on the wind'
Published 15/05/2012 | 12:32
Long waits for passengers at the UK's airports will depend on the wind, the Immigration Minister has said.
Damian Green also claimed that bringing in risk-based security checks would not be a panacea to reducing queues.
Passengers travelling to London's Heathrow airport from New York may well have longer waits to clear security if their flight arrives 10 minutes after one from Lagos, Nigeria, than if it arrives 10 minutes earlier.
"That will depend on the wind, over which, with the best will in the world, airlines and the Border Force don't have the control," he said.
Mr Green said he was not against the introduction of risk-based controls but a pilot scheme last year was tainted by abuse which saw unauthorised queue-based controls being used instead.
He told MPs on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee: "The other point I would make is that they (risk-based checks) would not be a panacea for queues. It's not at all obvious that just having risk-based controls reduces queues. They may well involve doing more thorough checks on some of those non-EU passengers."
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and airports operator BAA all told the MPs they backed risk-based checks, but insisted security was paramount and it was a decision for the Home Office.
Corneel Koster, director of operations, safety and security at Virgin Atlantic, said: "We have a view that risk-based security can work. We think it's a direction that the UK Border Force can move in. It allows the Border Force to allocate resources to make sure security is as robust as possible and also efficient."
He also blamed the worsening queues on working patterns, staff cutbacks, a move away from the risk-based security regime and an increase in passenger numbers.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, said: "It makes sense to focus resources on the passengers that are the highest risk, for whatever reason - maybe because of the way they're behaving or the things they're carrying in their bags."