On Tuesday, travelers faced long lines at several UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, and Manchester, due to a malfunction with the automated passport control gates known as e-gates. 

The Home Office confirmed that this was due to a technical issue affecting the Border Force systems. Heathrow announced early Wednesday that the issue was resolved, but other airports may still be experiencing delays.

Long Queues Hit UK Airports After E-Gate Glitch

(Photo : Rachel Moore from Pixabay)

Long Queues at UK Airports Due to E-Gate Problems

Passengers at the affected airports experienced significant delays. In Manchester, one traveler reported a 90-minute wait to get through passport control. 

BBC reported that Similar disruptions were seen at other airports, with travelers encountering chaotic scenes, especially where e-gates were non-operational and staff had to check passports manually.

The e-gates are designed to speed up the process of entering the UK by using facial recognition technology to verify identities automatically. However, the recent glitch shows that problems with these systems can cause widespread disruptions. 

Even airports like Belfast International, which do not use e-gates, were impacted because the issue was with the Border Force's overall systems.

Airports and the Border Force worked together to manage the situation. Manchester Airport provided water to waiting passengers and waived extra parking fees for those delayed by the issue. 

Meanwhile, airports continued to advise travelers to check for updates and prepare for potential delays as the situation normalized.

This is not the first time UK airports have faced such issues. Similar problems occurred last year, and there was also a major disruption in August when a system used to process flight plans failed, affecting about 2,000 flights across the UK.

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UK Airports to Test Advanced Facial Recognition at E-Gates

UK airports began trials of advanced facial recognition technology in January at eGates to streamline the entry process for arriving passengers. This new system could allow travelers to pass through border control without needing to present their physical passports.

The trials are expected to start this year. If successful, this technology could be implemented across all major UK airports. Phil Douglas, the director general of the UK Border Force, aims to create an "intelligent border" that simplifies entry with less hassle using facial recognition.

Conde Nast Traveler revealed that currently, UK airports, including London's Heathrow, Gatwick, and London City, are equipped with over 270 eGates. 

These gates use facial recognition, but passengers still have to scan their passports manually. The proposed system would eliminate this step, allowing a completely digital check-in process.

Inspired by similar technology in Australian airports, Douglas praised the efficiency of the Australian model. Before traveling, passengers would apply for an electronic authorization, and their passport details would be sent digitally to border authorities. 

Upon arrival, their identity would be verified through facial recognition without needing to show a passport.

The move could significantly speed up the process at UK airports, reducing wait times and making travel smoother. However, privacy concerns have been raised about how long and where the biometric data would be stored. 

Critics argue that increased use of facial recognition raises the risk of glitches and data breaches, which could lead to identity theft.

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