Airline passengers arriving at London Gatwick this morning have revealed they endured ‘outrageous’ queues at passport control after the eGates ‘failed’.
Families on flights landing in the early hours of today claimed the situation was a ‘mess’ and complained that there was no priority for those with young children.
One said there weren’t enough counters open, meaning vulnerable passengers had to wait to get through, while others said they had to queue for 40 minutes.
Sources confirmed to MailOnline that there were issues with the eGates in the North Terminal, but insisted that all counters were staffed to ease congestion.
The photos taken today are reminiscent of the chaotic scenes and queues when massive air traffic resumed in spring 2021 following the easing of lockdown rules.
Queues at London Gatwick Airport passport control today as passengers arrive for flights
People are queuing for passport control in Gatwick this morning
Twitter user MrsD83, who arrived in the early hours of today, posted this photo
Passenger Kleo Kaloudi, who arrived at Gatwick today, told MailOnline: ‘The UK should be the only country where families and young children are treated in this way.
How eGates work and how they are managed
The Home Office has more than 270 eGates across 15 UK airports and rail ports and they have been available to UK and EU nationals since 2008.
In May 2019, the system was expanded for use by nationals from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the US.
The gates can be used by adults with a biometric or ‘chipped’ passport. They are managed by the UK Home Office’s £372m central security database, known as Border Crossing.
They use facial recognition technology to match a passenger’s face to a digital image in their passport and are monitored by Border Force. Anyone who is rejected will have their identity and passport checked manually.
The eGates failed in 2021 at airports and ports across the UK on 24 September, 6 October and 10 November, and were closed for weeks when overseas holiday travel resumed on 17 May that year after failing to recognize passenger locator forms .
“The line at passport control at Gatwick airport for families is a disgrace. Every other country I have traveled to gives priority to families with young children.
‘England is the only country where you have to stand in long queues with small children for hours on end – inhumane. No more family values in this society.’
Another arrival, Miriam Norgate, from London, who is head of operations for the Malaria No More UK charity, tweeted: ‘Only country we landed in with passport control queues. Literally about 1,000 people lined up for UK citizens just because eGates have failed. To sort.’
She added: “Just two single toilets. Next 100m and three out of four don’t work. No special help for families with small children. UK, you let us down. Come on. Enter eGates. Use real people.’
Twitter user MrsD83, who arrived in the early hours of today, added: ‘Passport control at Gatwick Airport is a mess.
“Two family flights packed with your most vulnerable passengers in the early hours and four of the 20 passport windows open.”
Others tweeting pictures of the queues this morning included Mark Harris from Bristol, who wrote: ‘Gatwick airport, why is passport control stopped?’
And Lola Ripolles, who lives in London, added: ‘Movement at Gatwick passport control this morning… 40 minutes in line… a whole choreography of travelers moving through the belts.’
Another Twitter user from Bradford, West Yorkshire said: ‘Gatwick airport, shocking experience at passport control one person on passports in front of a huge queue of families with children. Disgusting and a joke of an airport.’
It is not yet known how the outage lasted, but photos of the large queues were posted on Twitter between 1:30 a.m. and a little before 9:00 a.m.
Passengers have faced chaos before due to eGate issues, most notably in the fall of 2021 when they went out three times in as many months.
The eGates are managed by the Home Office’s £372 million central UK-wide security database – known as Border Crossing – which was commissioned in June of that year.
There are more than 270 in 15 UK airports and rail ports and they have been available to UK and European Union nationals since 2008.
Passengers can use eGates if they have a biometric symbol on the cover of their passport and are a British citizen; are a national of an EU country, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland or the US; or a member of the Registered Travelers service – for those who often leave the country.
You must be at least 18 years old to go on your own, but those aged 12 to 17 can go on accompanied by an adult. Heathrow trialled a scheme earlier this year during February half term to use them for children aged 10 and 11.
MailOnline contacted the Home Office for comment. Gatwick declined to comment.