‘Super rich’ travellers from outside the European Union, such as “high-value business people” and people considered to be of benefit to the British economy, could be taken through passport controls at Heathrow airport much faster, as a result of plans to attract big spenders to Britain, currently reeling under the effect of the recession.
The move, disclosed by the head of the UK Border Force, Brian Moore, to a committee of MPs, drew criticism due to some fears that it could lead to a longer wait for ordinary passengers.
Keith Vaz, a senior Labour MP, and chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which questioned Mr. Moore on the issue, described the proposal as “unfair and unjust.”
“What concerns me is that it will increase the wait for ordinary passengers,” he said.
Mr. Moore told the committee that the move was intended to signal to all countries that Britain was “open for business,” following concerns that reports of chaos and long queues at Heathrow were deterring the rich from coming to Britain.
“It is an idea that officials are discussing with port operators. It will then revert to ministers for them to consider if and how it will progress. It is an idea that is being pursued,” he said.
It wasn’t clear if the proposed faster service would be gratis or travellers would have to pay for it.
The norms for determining “high value” passengers also weren’t disclosed.
Some airlines already allow First Class and Business Class passengers to use faster lines but according to The Financial Times, the concept of a dedicated lane for business people was “new,” and could be based on a system used for VIPs during the recent London Games.
The Times said it would be an extension of a “priority queuing” system tried at Heathrow earlier this year, allowing passengers from America, Japan and “Old Commonwealth” countries, such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand, to jump the queue.