Travellers arriving at Heathrow, Stansted and Luton airports on Wednesday morning were left waiting for up to two hours at border control due to a national outage of the facilities’ self-service barriers.
It was the third reported failure in three months, following one on September 24 and another on October 6.
The e-gates promise to process as many as five passengers every 45 seconds. But when they fail, the work is up to Border Force officers.
A recent shortage of staff, however, made that a daunting task during Wednesday’s incident.
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Singer Edward Grint asked: “Stansted or Standstill?
“Landed nearly an hour ago.
“Looks like it’s going to be well over 2 hours waiting for someone to check my forms.”
One Twitter user said: “Another failure at Heathrow airport.
And Stephen Rush added: “We need a better Heathrow, not a bigger Heathrow.”
The passport e-gates are used to process the arrivals of UK and EU nationals since the automated system was implemented in 2008.
It was in May 2019 expanded to serve arrivals from the US, Canada, Australia and Japan.
There are more than 270 e-gates across 15 air and rail ports in Britain.
An airport Border Force officer who asked to remain anonymous told The Times: “It’s happened a few times this year.
“It’s very irritating as the hall would be half empty if they were working.
“It’s the joys of technology.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are aware of a technical issue affecting eGates at a number of ports.
“We are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible and apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused.”
The incident happened shortly after Joe Biden lifted a travel ban between the US and a list of countries including the UK.
Since the US President’s announcement last month that the double-jabbed were free to board a plane to the UK, a surge in bookings has been recorded.
There were fears the e-gate outage at some of London’s airports gave a bad impression to US travellers on the third day of their renewed freedom to visit the UK.