Heathrow relief for Kiwis ahead of Games?

By Paul Harper

Delays of up to two hours for passengers from outside Europe were reported last week. Photo / AP
Delays of up to two hours for passengers from outside Europe were reported last week. Photo / AP

Kiwi fliers could find their way through customs at Heathrow Airport much quicker, with the London gateway opening separate lanes for non-European passengers who are deemed "low-risk".

The UK Border agency is trialling new desks for passengers who do not need visas ahead of the Olympic Games, after passengers waited more than two hours to get through the airport over the weekend, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Retired employees and civil servants have been brought in to man the extra desks, as thousands of athletes and fans flood the country for the Games, which kick off on July 27.

New Zealand Olympian Barbara Kendall slammed the delays at the airport in May, writing on Twitter: "Heathrow Airport Immigration is a nightmare!! took me 2 hours to get through and it is not Olympic time yet."

Heathrow aims to have 95 percent of European passengers through passport checks in 25 minutes and non-Europeans through in 45 minutes, however the Telegraph found passengers in the airport had to wait more than two hours.

This comes after similar delays in April, where disgruntled passengers passed officials without having their documents checked in protest.

To ease the pressure, the Border Agency is to open separate lanes for non-European passengers entering the UK who are considered "low risk" and do not require visas, the Telegraph reported. This will include many New Zealand passengers, as well as fliers from Australia, the United States, Japan and Canada.

A report by independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, John Vine, found the delays were exacerbated by job cuts, as well as staff going home at the airport's busiest times.

The airport is expecting its busiest day in history on August 13, the day after the Olympic closing ceremony, with 138,000 passengers expected. The airport normally averages 95,000 departing passengers a day.

However some countries' Olympic teams, including Australia, China and Canada, are booking private charter flights from Stansted in Essex to avoid the congestion.

New Zealand's Olympic squad will fly out of Heathrow.

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