Airport check-in and transit times could be published, revealing which are the worst performers, as part of a drive for better standards called for in the UK government’s new tourism strategy.
The strategy, launched yesterday by minster for tourism John Penrose, said the government will work with airports and airlines to reduce check-in times, particularly for long-haul flights.
It also vows to tackle unacceptably long passport queues for inbound travellers by bringing in more e-passport gates with Gatwick South and Heathrow Terminal 3 set to get them by April.
The strategy sates: “Given the new government’s commitment to transparency, and for putting citizens in the driving seat, we should discuss with airlines, airport operators, passenger groups and regulators how to collect and publish data on port transit times, to inform consumers about the likely waiting times and potential delays at their airports from now on.”
Penrose said: “I’m a great believer in consumer power. We would dearly love to publish more data about how long it takes to get through British ports of entry.
“It would be interesting to know whether you are more likely to be held up on your journey in one place versus another. If people can make an informed decision as part of their travel plans you might see some consumer pressure brought to bear.”
Nigel Milton, Heathrow’s policy director, said: “Moves to introduce new technology and make the Border Agency more transparent are most welcome. Heathrow’s own targets mean that passengers get through airport security in under five minutes 99% of the time and we hope that targets set for immigration queues can help drive down waiting times so we can provide travellers with a better welcome to Britain.
“We have been investing £1bn per year in upgrading older terminals at Heathrow but we accept that if visitors get poor service at immigration then this could all be for nothing, so we look forward to supporting government moves to improve queuing at our borders.
“We will aim to reduce queuing times by introducing more e-Passport gates, which offer British and EEA passengers with chipped biometric passports a secure, self-service alternative to the conventional manual control at the border.
“Given the new Government’s commitment to transparency from April 2011 UKBA will be publishing details of its performance against national targets.”
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