Passengers arriving at Stansted faced chaotic delays at passport control on Monday night as an estimated 5,000 people queued to pass through immigration.
Images of the waiting crowds were shared on social media, with a number of travellers taking to Twitter to complain that the snaking lines had forced them to miss their train into London or had spoiled the end of their holiday.
Some 28 planes landed at the Essex airport in two hours between 11pm and 1am. A spokesperson for Stansted said passenger numbers were "in line with expectations and forecasts" for a Monday night and that immigration was an issue for the Home Office.
But arriving passengers directed their anger at the airport, with one Tweeter, @jemazing, saying: "When the end of your holiday turns to s--- 'cos [Stansted Airport] are incapable of operating efficiently."
Another, Jared Knight, said there must be a "fast track queue for British citizens with toddlers", also sharing a photo of the lines with the hashtag, #brutal.
Hannah Wright was left enquiring how to get home after the delays meant that she missed her Stansted Express service to London.
"You owe me an unused return train ticket due to appalling queue management making me miss the last train to London," she told Stansted Airport's Twitter account.
A spokesman for Stansted told The Telegraph: "The level of service provided by Border Force at immigration was well below the standard we expect for our passengers. We have asked Border Force to explain why this was the case, in particular to set out the reasons why so many desks were unmanned and e-gates closed during the peak arrival period.
"Stansted Airport staff proactively helped manage the queues to ensure passenger safety at all times but we are very disappointed about the negative impact on our customers at the border last night."
The Home Office is responsible for manning passport control at UK airports, and has come under criticism before for mass delays. A spokesman for the Home Office said "The security of our border is paramount - which is why 100 per cent of scheduled passengers are checked when arriving in the UK.
"During the two hour period in question, all passengers in the European Economic Area queues were dealt with within our agreed 25 minute service standard. The longest queue recorded for non-EEA passengers was four minutes longer than the service standard.
"On occasions, when multiple flights land at the same time, large amounts of passengers can arrive at the border in a short space of time, meaning a longer wait while essential security checks are conducted."
In July, a former head of the UK Border Agency told The Telegraph that Heathrow security forces were struggling to cope at passport control after being overwhelmed by soaring passenger numbers.
"Heathrow has increased passenger volumes while, in reality, the Border Force budget has been declining for some years," Tony Smith said.
In September, it emerged that the Government was planning to introduce a new fast-track service allowing passengers to pay between £5 and £17.50 to skip passport control queues. Staff unions branded the idea a "gimmick" and called instead for increased staffing at border control.