Passport Control at Gatwick

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#1
Virginia
1,229 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
We will be flying into Gatwick on May 13. On tonights TV news they had a story about 2hr+ lines at Heathrow to get through passport control. Is it as bad at Gatwick? Should we be concerned? We arrive around 7:30am and have reservations with National Express to Southampton for 10:10am. Should we change to a later time?

Thanks in advance

<<<Karen>>>
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#2
Eastern Spain
674 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
It is frequently bad at Gatwick though I have never experienced a 2 hour delay there though it took us more than 2 hours ar Miami a few weeks ago. I would have thought you should be OK if you know where to go to pick up your transport. We will be going through Gatwick a week today, I will let you know if it is really bad.
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#3
Switzerland
2,211 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
2 hours is not the usual delay. This time it was caused by too few border staff being available at a time when a lot of flights landed at the same time due to weather issues. Normally for non EU it should not be more than 45 minutes to 1 hour maximum - this is at Heathrow.

For what it's worth, the relevent Government department says it is working on the issue.

Even though it is the same department responsible (Border Agency), Gatwick does seem to fare better with the queues at immigration. Arriving at 7.30am there are usually plenty of immigration officers on duty as this is one of the peak arrival times.
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#4
Vancouver BC
7,241 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
Originally posted by gkkapp
We will be flying into Gatwick on May 13. On tonights TV news they had a story about 2hr+ lines at Heathrow to get through passport control. Is it as bad at Gatwick? Should we be concerned? We arrive around 7:30am and have reservations with National Express to Southampton for 10:10am. Should we change to a later time?

Thanks in advance

<<<Karen>>>
Only country I've ever waited 2+ hours to enter is the USA (on multiple occasions; by land, sea and air)
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#5
Seattle WA
4,467 Posts
Joined Jan 2002
I've been through Heathrow several times in the past few weeks, and border controls have been horrendous - way, way worse than I've experienced in many years of travel through London. Ten days ago my queue took around 90 min. to the passport kiosks at T5. My flight from Oslo was quicker.

(In front of me was a woman who works for the IOC, on her way to a meeting with the London Olympics Organizing Committee. She was on her mobile phone to them explaining that she was going to miss her meeting owing to the delays at immigration. She, and from what I could gather, they, were pretty hot about it, and had vengeance on their minds. Go for it, sister!)

There aren't as many reports from LGW, but those there are are mostly saying the same thing - hour to two-hour waits not uncommon. The problem is staff shortages at UKBA, compounded by what's becoming a rather obvious work-to-rule posture by the staff.

Personally I'd probably move to a later transfer. If you get through quicker, chances are that National Express could put you on the next bus.
#6
St. Augustine, Florida
1,499 Posts
Joined Aug 2003
Fly through Gatwick often and we never had more than one person in front of us to through passport control. We usually arrive from Orlando around 7 am .
#7
Hobe Sound, Fl & Somerset, Pa
4,681 Posts
Joined Nov 2006
We prefer to fly into Gatwick rather than Heathrow, mainly because of the long lines and delays always associated with LHR. The last time we were in LGW was in Late October, arriving around 7:30 AM. We had no problems at all with immigration and after doing all that we needed to do, were with our car service before 9AM.

Mary
#8
Virginia
1,229 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Thanks to everyone who responded to my post. We feel better about Gatwick now and should have enough time to get through passport control and still make our National Express connection. At worst we can take a later bus as we have that option.

To those of you who waited in long lines over here, we feel your pain. Last year returning from Rome we spent almost 2 hours in line for passport control and customs only to then have to go through TSA security (shoes off, everything out of the carry-on) again even though we never left the secured area .

<<<Karen>>>
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#9
At 35,000 feet
9,162 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Originally posted by gkkapp
Last year returning from Rome we spent almost 2 hours in line for passport control and customs only to then have to go through TSA security (shoes off, everything out of the carry-on) again even though we never left the secured area .
You were rescreened because you had access to your checked baggage. It was possible for you to have put a banned item in that bag and retrieved it after you picked up the bag before customs. Or received it from someone else who had it in their bag.

In a sense, although you were in the customs area, you were no longer "sterile" because of the checked luggage.

FWIW, many international airports require rescreening even if you have not had access to luggage or entered a non-sterile area.
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#10
Virginia
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Joined Dec 2005
FlyerTalker-

Never thought of it in that way. Yes, we retrieved our checked baggage and then gave it over to someone to be put on our next flight. Never thought about getting something out of it or putting something in it. I guess we won't make very good t.....ts .

<<<Karen>>>
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#11
At 35,000 feet
9,162 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Originally posted by gkkapp
Never thought of it in that way. Yes, we retrieved our checked baggage and then gave it over to someone to be put on our next flight. Never thought about getting something out of it or putting something in it.
If you purchase any liquids at duty-free, you can/must put it into your checked bag at the transfer point. You can't keep it in your carryon, but you can now put it into checked baggage for the rest of your journey.
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"Anybody who believes they can out-think the airlines' revenue/yield management computer algorithms is, in my view, delusional." -- Gardyloo

"It doesn't really make a blind bit of difference what other people are paying since they're traveling from different airports, on different days, at different times of the year." -- fbgd

"Daddy he hates airplanes, Baby loves to fly. The Lady wants to know the reason why." -- Michael Franks

My standard response to all the questions of "Can I make that early flight home?" or "Can I take a bag that is oversized without paying?":
"Well, you gotta ask yourself....do you feel lucky? Well do you?" -- Inspector Harry Callahan
#12
3,181 Posts
Joined May 2006
Originally posted by gkkapp
Thanks to everyone who responded to my post. We feel better about Gatwick now and should have enough time to get through passport control and still make our National Express connection. At worst we can take a later bus as we have that option.

To those of you who waited in long lines over here, we feel your pain. Last year returning from Rome we spent almost 2 hours in line for passport control and customs only to then have to go through TSA security (shoes off, everything out of the carry-on) again even though we never left the secured area .

<<<Karen>>>
Well, at least you weren't fingerprinted, too!
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#13
Central Valley, CA
11,253 Posts
Joined Jul 2002
We went through Heathrow on 4/30, and there were about 500 of us in line, with the front 250 being there for over 2 hours. More than a nightmare.

Anyway, we stayed in the UK for 8 days after, and the problems for Immigration was the top story pretty much the whole time we were there. Gatwick was also in the news.

However, the word was they were adding staff over that week between 5/1 and 5/8, so maybe it's better now.

We have connected with National Express on two other trips into London, and they are accommodating about delays. By now they are probably used to panicked passengers arriving at the central bus depot too late. I am sure they will let you get on the next bus if it's not full.

Everyone in the transportation business out of the London airports is dealing with this. I was on the phone 3 times with our transfer service. They were very good about it all, and said they'd been keeping a driver near the airport at all times because people just couldn't get through the immigration line within the "normal" window of time.
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#14
The OC
5,799 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Originally posted by gkkapp
Last year returning from Rome we spent almost 2 hours in line for passport control and customs only to then have to go through TSA security (shoes off, everything out of the carry-on) again even though we never left the secured area .

<<<Karen>>>
Passengers boarding flights to the US have to meet TSA requirements. There's no quick and easy way for them to know the level of screening that passengers received at their originating airport. So the default is to re-screen everyone.

I seem to recall that was how the Christmas "underwear bomber" slipped through the system and in the case of baggage screening it's how the Lockerbie bomb got on board. Both originated at an airport with very lax security, then connected through one or more airports without re-screening. My recollection may not be 100% accurate. Now, I have issues with how TSA does business, but given it "is what it is", re-screening international connecting passengers makes sense.
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#15
Vancouver BC
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Originally posted by kenish
... and in the case of baggage screening it's how the Lockerbie bomb got on board. Both originated at an airport with very lax security, then connected through one or more airports without re-screening. My recollection may not be 100% accurate.
Pan Am 103 originated in FRA, and was a change of equipment in LHR; both of which are not airports with 'very lax security'.

British security was, until the US was attacked in 2001, was much much more strict than US TSA.
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