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Gatwick airport

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    Gatwick airport

    I've had a very pleasant few days away lurking by the pool at a friends villa just North of Malaga. I looked forward to the return journey via my favourite airport at Gatwick aka Death Valley. Students of current affairs will have noted just recently, the adverse publicity concerning the breakdown of the electronic flight information boards at said airport leading to the inevitable and some say, more efficient means of distributing that information via handwritten noticeboards.

    Having arrived at the North Terminal and walked - with luggage - what seemed like about five miles albeit some on travelators, I arrived - deep joy - at Passport Control. It is somewhile since I last negotiated the maze that is Gatwick and I wasn't prepared for electronic passport reading. And by the look of things neither was anyone else.

    There were, Heaven knows how many, what looked like the stalls into which horses are pushed at the start of a race. Despite the crowd milling around they were nearly all empty. I waited my turn. A sprightly girl with dubious clarity was attempting to describe the sequence of checking starting with the placement of the passport under the scanner. My passport was resolute in its four times rejection of the process. I turned to my passport control guide who wordlessly pointed towards checkout 18 complete with a person hand checking fitness to enter the country. I walked the Avenue of Shame to the Desk of Disgrace.

    The man on duty and I exchanged pleasantries along the lines of how much taxpayers investment had been spent on a system that was so obviously flawed that it didn't work, well, not completely but, most of the time. After three attempts, he surrendered, gave me my passport and wished me a good day - rather firmly I thought.

    Yes, Britain's working well.

    As riveting as ever, John. So, in short, doddery old pensioner struggles to get around busy airport? Tell us more!



      The word 'Civility' doesn't appear to be part of you're makeup does it.

      Best regards

      Mr BlueSky.
      Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

      Wrong Forum!


        He actually takes refuge behind 'Muddle' not 'Meddle'.


          "The word 'Civility' doesn't appear to be part of you're makeup does it."

          Think the word was your, not you're (=you are) a sadly frequently made mistake of todays poorly educated society.

          As for automatic passport controls, i use these weekly in my travels both arriving in the UK and overseas (predominantly Madrid) and they make life so much easier and quicker, not sure what the issue is?


            Ah, quite, I was wondering how long before someone would notice that...
            Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

            Wrong Forum!


              The problem - please, not 'issue' - was made plain. I was hoping to start a "I Told You So, Britain Does Work Properly" campaign beginning with my entry into the dark arts of electronic passport scanning at Death Valley aka Gatwick Airport.

              The readily perceived problem/issue/fault/hiatus/hiccup was that the highly advanced and expensive passport scanning devices weren't firing on all cylinders eg. they were not all working as they should.

              I was told by a person sitting behind a desk at the end of the Walk of Shame that 'not all working' was a fairly frequent event. He didn't say how frequent was frequent.

              Whether it was a software fault, the fault of dodgy passports or, because it was raining wasn't known to me.

              I'm relying upon you from the depths of your extensive expertise to furnish a competent excuse.

              Britain is nearly working.


                Great subject John and thanks for your organized and clear report. I have similar experiences at Heathrow where often more than half of the horse stalls have red crosses on them, i.e. do not enter or not working. Having successfully exited this 'technological improvement', I was threatened with arrest by some officious female jobsworth because I was watching the entertainment on the other side of the barrier.
       I have been round the world 11.83 times!


                  Personally, I think the whole passport control and immigration process is generally a nightmare, it is understaffed, poorly managed, poorly coordinated and will undoubtedly get a whole lot worse next year.

                  The saving grace, hence my comments, are the expediency of the automatic points when they are working (I arrived into LHR yesterday evening with about 20 out of 25 working and queues of no more than 1 deep per point and had a seamless entry back into the UK).

                  My observations of issues and with people using them are the inability to follow instructions, to look at the camera, to insert the passport in the correct manner and general stupidity.


                    As with a lot of this electrickery, when it's rolled out it almost works, many bugs and associated anomalies have to be exorcised, then, after a bit of persistence, it does work almost to the point of actually being usable, it's at that point a new system is introduced and the whole cycle repeats itself.
                    Sometimes it's better to be a bumblebee than it is to be Professor Heinkel.


                      Your last paragraph perhaps hits the sweet spot of failure of the system. Just too many positioning indicators causing confusion. On the floor in front of each scanner are two footprints etched into the floor. I estimate that as many seven out of ten people missed these positioning marks and had to be directed by one of the staff.

                      Looking down to position your feet meant that you were unable to look into the face scanner. People were being shown how to place their passport in the scanner . Too many did not place the document far enough into the scanner, applying downward pressure with the hand to the back.

                      I imagine the system was devised - among other reasons, to process large numbers of visitors as quickly and efficiently as possible - much like a conveyor belt. The system fails because people are simply unaware of the sequence of procedure. The system requires simplification. It also appears that about two or three in ten electronic passports submitted for appraisal cannot be read by the scanner.
                      Last edited by John Green; 23rd August 2018, 11:45.