In welcome news for anyone who’s ever been left waiting at Heathrow Airport - especially after a 20 hour service from Australia - the UK says it will allow Australians to use the e-passport gates at British airports in the near future.
The announcement was made in the Chancellor to the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s Budget 2018 speech, in which he promised to "send a message loud and clear to the rest of the world that Britain is open for business".
“We’ll open the use of e-passport gates at Heathrow and other airports currently only available to EEA nationals to include visitors from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan,” he said.
At present, the electronic gates at British airports are only available to European passport holders.
But with the UK to begin transitioning out of the European Union from 29 March 2019, the announcement has been widely viewed as a move to bolster ties with five of its closest allies.
Australian High Commissioner to the UK George Brandis has welcomed the announcement, which the Australian Government has been working towards for a while, the ABC reported.
But some Brits, according to the Canberra Times, haven’t been so receptive, with concerns that UK nationals would now have to queue for longer at airports.
Airlines UK CEO Tim Alderslade said the announcement was a “welcome step in the right direction” but would need some technical updates before coming into effect.
Data shows wait times for passport control at Heathrow rose above 2.5 hours on one day in July, with authorities missing their target of a maximum 45-minute wait for 95% of visitors from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) on 30 of 31 days.
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