Trialled at London Stansted Airport, the new machines - conceived to scan passports on a biometric level - have already been the cause of substantial delays, as reported in a previous Airports International News Item.
Their deployment has outraged several airlines, these highlighting how present security restrictions relating to luggage are already the source of many passengersâ malcontent. They fear that, as a consequence of the machines' arrival, longer delays will result.
Speaking yesterday, the Chief Executive of the Border and Immigration Agency, Lin Homer, stated that the devices would be in situ in all of the UK's prominent ports by year-end. Regarding the notion of substantially longer delays, Miss Homer stressed that passengers could only expect a 'slightly longer wait'. She added that: "We have to look at individuals and I make no apology for that."
At London Stansted, the effect for some passengers has been a delay of more than an hour. This has led to stark criticism from several sources, including the Chief Executive of Ryanair, Michael OâLeary. Industry comment has highlighted, in particular, the ramifications for London Heathrow, which, as detailed in a previous Airports International News Item, is already struggling to cope with a huge number of passengers. The crucial period will be early morning, which is when the majority of flights from the Far East and North America arrive.
Commenting on the requirements now imposed by the new security machines, an Airport Operators Association spokesman states: "We have met the Government and have made it clear we need more front line immigration staff." According, however, to Miss Homer, there has already been an increase in officials of this kind. Moreover, she attributes the present delays to several alternative factors. "There has been some bunching of flights that has meant there have been times when we have been dealing with significantly more people than normalâ, she said.
Another concern currently being voiced within the aviation community relates to baggage, which, with its owners occupied in security checks, would be left to accumulate. Regarding this, an unidentified source stated: "Once you have a backlog anywhere at Heathrow - even on the spur road coming in, it all falls over."
Miss Homer, however, has described how the long term benefits of the new machinery would become apparent; easing delays eventually.