London: Australians will get through arrivals at Heathrow faster in the near future, after the UK government decided we can use their e-passport gates.
Chancellor Philip Hammond made the announcement in his budget speech on Monday, saying it would send the message “loud and clear to the rest of the world” that Brexit Britain was “open for business”.
The electronic gates at Heathrow and other airports are currently only available to European passport holders, but will now open up to visitors from Australia, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.
It will be good news for Australian travellers who have previously endured long queues (apart from families with young children, who cannot use the automated gates, and dual nationals who have already been able to switch to their UK passports).
At the height of the British summer visitors not from the EEA (European Economic Area) waited more than the desired 45 minutes for a passport check 95 per cent of the time – and on July 6 queues at Heathrow were more than two and a half hours long.
The news was welcomed by Australian expats on social media.
Researcher Sarah Nickson said she didn’t see why we needed Brexit for this to happen, “but after waiting over two hours in a line at Heathrow recently this expat is certainly stoked”.
But the news was not welcomed by some Brits, who complained it meant queues for UK nationals would get longer.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the announcement was a “welcome step in the right direction” but said it would need some technical changes before it came into effect.