“It was absolute chaos at passport control,” he said. “There were people getting really frustrated and a couple of individuals tried to jump queues. The police had to get engaged and one of the passengers fainted.”
The problems, which began Friday night, come as U.K. airports, airlines and ferry operators try to rebuild goodwill with the public after a series of glitches caused travel chaos last summer when foreign travel surged following the coronavirus pandemic.
Electronic passport gates are automated self-service barriers designed to speed up processing of travel documents. Using facial recognition technology, the system verifies a traveler’s identity against the data stored in the chip in their passport.
There are now 270 such gates at 15 air and rail ports in the U.K., according to the Home Office. They are open to anyone over the age of 12 who holds a passport from the U.K., any European Union member country, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States.
About 86% of the people who enter the U.K. each year are eligible to use the electronic gates, according to the Home Office.