Different countries seem to have different policies as far as expedited immigration goes. Some countries, like Thailand and the UK, have fast track immigration lines available to premium passengers. Other countries don’t seem to have any sort of formalized fast track immigration lines, so it doesn’t matter what class of service you’re in, you’ll be waiting at immigration. China and the US are among those countries, for example.
While the UK has fast track immigration facilities, it looks like this may soon be expanded to all passengers… if they’re willing to pay. Per the Mirror, UK airports will soon begin allowing passengers to pay a fee in order to cut long immigration lines. Apparently the fee will be at least £5, though the details haven’t yet been fully revealed. Here’s what we know so far:
A spokesman for the PCS union told the Sunday People: “This is a ridiculous idea that exposes just how understaffed our borders are. What happens if everyone opts to pay £5? We’re back to square one.”
He added: “Instead of gimmicks like this the Government needs to properly invest in staff to work at ports and airports because the shortages are there for all to see.”
It emerged last month that Edinburgh Airport could start charging travellers £5 to jump queues.
Now the Sunday People can reveal plans are afoot to roll the policy out nationwide, though rates at other airports are unclear.
It’s an interesting concept. If the money were actually put towards increasing overall staffing then it would be a win-win. However, in practice I suspect this would simply be a move to increase revenue without actually investing more in immigration, meaning those not paying would be subjected to even longer lines.
Furthermore, this seems like it would lead to a lot of disappointment. Passengers would be angry if they paid the fee only to find that there was no wait at “regular” immigration, while other times passengers might be angry that there’s still a queue in the fast track line when they paid extra for it. Heck, at UK airports I’ve often found the fast track line for first & business class passengers to be longer than the regular line.
None of this even addresses the fact that the UK has the highest air passenger duties in the world by far, so passengers traveling to/from the UK are already paying out the wazoo for the privilege. I realize that money doesn’t go directly to their border control, but still…
Gatwick Airport already lets passengers pay to get access to a premium immigration queue. This is available for £12.50, and they’ll sell it to at most 50 passengers per hour, which ensures that these immigration queues are actually expedited. I don’t have any issues with this being rolled out on a limited scale, but anything beyond what Gatwick offers seems like it would lead to disappointment.
Would you like to see more airports roll out fast track immigration for a fee, or do you think it would only make things worse?