Heathrow passengers face long queues as more than 100 staffers told to self-isolate

Jul 13, 2021

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Passengers departing from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on Monday experienced longer-than-usual queues to get through the airport. The reason? A largely short-staffed airport.

Heathrow Airport said that more than 100 of its staff were instructed to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app. The isolating staff are believed to have been the reason behind the massive queues ahead of security.

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The self-isolating staff did not involve Border Force officers, and only Terminal 5 was affected by the disruption.

Social media took off with stories and pictures from passengers who experienced massive queues and limited social distancing. One passenger described the scenes from inside Terminal 5 as “total chaos.”

“Earlier today, we experienced some passenger congestion in Terminal 5 departures, due to colleagues being instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace,” a Heathrow spokesperson said in a statement. “We have activated additional team members to assist passengers with their journeys and the operation has now returned to normal. We apologise to our passengers for any inconvenience caused.”

Following the activation of more staff to security at Heathrow on Tuesday morning, there appear to be fewer complaints across social media.

In recent months, there’s been increasing pressure on Heathrow to better staff the airport. At times, there have been queues of more than eight hours at immigration, due to the U.K.’s complicated entry restrictions and the requirements for Border Force to check testing and quarantine plans for passengers.

Related: Heathrow warns travellers to brace for up to 6-hour queues

Since last month, Heathrow has reopened Terminal 3 for its dedicated red list terminal, meaning passengers arriving from any of the 56 red list countries will enter through the terminal and proceed to hotel quarantine. That operation will eventually move to Terminal 4 once Virgin Atlantic and Delta resume operations from Terminal 3 this week.

As of 19 July, ambers arrivals who have been fully vaccinated in the U.K. no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days on arrival in England. Note that as of launch, it only applies to travellers who have received both doses of a vaccine in the U.K. Passengers will still be required to have a pre-departure negative test, as well as take a PCR test within two days of arrival.

“While it’s fantastic news that some double-vaccinated passengers will no longer need to quarantine from amber countries, ministers need to extend this policy to US and EU nationals if they want to kickstart the economic recovery,” Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said.

Featured photo by Bloomberg/Getty Images.

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