Heathrow Terminal 4 Epassport Gates

Glitch in Heathrow Airport’s ePassport gates causes major delays

Image credit: wikicommons

Heathrow Airport has suffered problems with its ePassport gates that are causing hours of delay for passengers at the UK’s largest aviation hub.

Travellers have been facing long queues with wait times of up to four hours in order to board their flights or are simply being forced to remain on aircraft.

The gates use facial recognition technology to verify the traveller’s identity against the data stored in the chip in their biometric passport, as well as run the data against numerous databases to determine if the traveller is a security risk.

The Home Office did not give details about why the gates had failed other than chalking it down to a “technical issue”.

On 24 September, Heathrow’s ePassport gates also faced glitches that prevented them working for a period of several hours.

In 2017, it was estimated that around 100 million passengers had used ePassport gates since they first went live in Manchester Airport in 2008.

Initially, they were only made available to citizens of the EU including the UK, the EEA and Switzerland. Users needed to be over the age of 12 and hold biometric passports that are capable of being scanned.

In 2019, the system was opened up to residents of some other countries including the US, Japan and Australia.

The UK Border Force occasionally temporarily suspends the operation of ePassport gates due to the arrival of certain flights that are deemed to be 'high risk'.

A Heathrow spokeswoman said: “Earlier today a systems failure impacted the e-gates, which are staffed and operated by Border Force.

“This issue, which impacted a number of ports of entry, has since been resolved and the e-gates at Heathrow are back up and running again.

“Our teams remain on hand and are working with Border Force to monitor the situation, and to get passengers on their way as quickly as possible.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “This morning a technical issue affected e-gates at a number of ports. The issue was quickly identified and has now been resolved.

“We have been working hard to minimise disruption and continue to monitor the situation closely.

“We apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

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