Immigration Bill

Written evidence from British Airways (IB 31)

 

Clause 58 and Schedule 7 of the Immigration Bill

 

Background

 

British Airways supports the governments priority for a secure border and have a proven track record of supporting the Home Office and Border Force in its work to do so. BA was one of the first airlines to regularly provide passenger booking and flight data to the UK Government on high risk routes and was one of the first to provide data on all international flights into and out of the UK under the Home Office e-Borders programme. We continue to work in cooperation with the Home Office and Border Force on a wide range of border control initiatives.

We accept that while the checks our staff makes on passengers’ travel documentation, both here and overseas, have a part to play in the overall protection of the UK border, the actual immigration check and decision is a function of the state. Our customer service staff are not adequately qualified to take on the responsibility of immigration officers yet the proposal in the Immigration Bill gives powers to compel them to take on these powers.

At Heathrow BA has a pool of approximately 3,000 customer service staff involved in the check-in and boarding of passengers. All these might be forced to take on this new responsibility raising a number of concerns, such as:

- Significant increase in responsibility of this employee group which would be at odds with their union negotiated working conditions

- Additional training requirements, including downtime while training is conducted

We do not believe that the important issue of border security should be forced on our employees who were recruited in a customer service role.

We do not agree with the view that embarkation checks can be easily added into the outbound passenger process. Many airlines, including BA, are moving to greater automation and passenger self-service in the departure process leading to less direct staff engagement with passengers in the airport. Many passengers will now check-in online or at an automated kiosk and pass through security without speaking to a BA staff member. We are further looking at processes to automate the entry to security screening and boarding processes on some flights. The addition of a new embarkation check into this process will be in contradiction to these new processes and could have adverse consequences for passengers such as:

- Less ability to adopt self-service technologies

- Increased processing time for passengers hampering their progress through the airport

- Increased boarding times leading to slower turnaround times for aircraft, flight delays and passenger inconvenience.

As an example; on a European flight operated by a 767 we have 250 passengers to board in 17 minutes. Adding a new process of just five seconds per passenger would add 1,250 seconds to the total processing time, as we generally board with three queues this could add seven minutes per queue, a 40% increase on our boarding time.

We understand that the intention is to only enable powers of examination to airport staff but the current drafting of the Bill would enable identical powers for immigration officers or designated persons.

We believe that a carrier’s obligations in the Bill should be limite d to one of provision of electronic passenger data, as is the case under the e-Borders programme, in order assist immigration officers with their ability to conduct effective exit checks on passengers.

November 2013

Prepared 13th November 2013