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Airport chaos after immigration computers fail

May 2, 2014 Airport, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The expression “to err is human; to really foul things up requires a computer” proved itself yesterday as airports in Britain shuddered to a virtual standstill after immigration computers failed.

The glitch affected self-service e-Passport gates – which operate by running a facial recognition check against a traveller’s passport, as at Australian airports – and customs desks staffed by humans alongside computers.Queues begin to form as computers fail

The problem caused extended queues at airport immigration desks throughout Britain, with extra staff drafted in at short notice. A government spokesman said: “We are currently experiencing temporary IT problems which may add to the time taken to conduct passport checks.

“We are working to rectify this issue and are providing extra staff to get passengers through the controls as quickly as possible. Our priority remains security of the border.

“We apologise for any additional time this adds to passengers’ journeys.”

Problems at passport control desks spread through the country, mostly affecting non-EU passengers such as Australians.

A Heathrow spokesman told the Guardian: “There are some longer queues than normal in the terminals but we have spoken to border force and they are putting on extra staff.

“Obviously we want to sort the issue out but not risk the integrity of the border controls.”

International passengers at Gatwick were told to expect a wait of up to four hours, according to one passenger. Little information was given.

The UK Home Office later apologised and said engineers had been working “through the night” on the issue, the BBC reported.

Gatwick and Heathrow airports said it was “business as usual” by this morning.

“People were joking a bit, generally well-behaved and resigned to a long wait – typically British,” one observer commented.

 

Written by Peter Needham

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