The United Kingdom’s airport entry e-gates went down for the second time in as many weeks. The e-gates are maintained by the UK Border Force, and use facial recognition to allow air travelers to pass through customs checkpoints without speaking to an agent.
The e-gates are supposed to streamline the entry process and minimize wait times, but that assumes that the gates are working properly. Unfortunately, e-gates at Heathrow, Edinburgh, and Gatwick airports stopped working at around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, with officials attributing the shutdown to an unspecified technical issue. That issue would eventually be resolved at around 9:00 a.m., at which point regular e-gate service resumed.
However, those 90 minutes of downtime were still enough to trigger massive delays at the affected airports, which were forced to resort to manual inspections. Some passengers were through in about an hour, while others reported wait times as long as four hours. The queues were also much longer than usual, extending into other areas of the airport and making it virtually impossible to enforce social the social distancing guidelines that were put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The previous systems failure occurred on September 24, and affected the East Midlands and Manchester airports in addition to Heathrow and Edinburgh. The second shutdown indicates that the first was not an isolated event, which could create more headaches for airport stakeholders. Technology developers and airport operators have argued that biometric and contactless screening technologies would reduce crowds and improve the overall travel experience. Passengers have expressed interest in those benefits, but their enthusiasm will fade if they do not trust the technology to work as intended.
Source: The Guardian
October 8, 2021 – by Eric Weiss