UKBA Failed To Check Passengers’ Passports

UKBA failed to check passengers' passports

Bournemouth airport to investigate lapse after Ryanair flight disembarks with no security checks

Mark Tran
The Guardian,
Wednesday 15 September 2010

Dozens of passengers on a Ryanair flight from Spain walked through Bournemouth airport, Dorset, without having their passports checked because no officials from the UK Border Agency were present, it emerged yesterday.

Bob Shepherd, 59, the managing director of an overseas property company based in Spain, and a frequent flyer, said airport security was non-existent.

“The bottom line is that something like 180 people got into England via Bournemouth airport without any form of identification required,” he said. “Bournemouth airport's security was a farce.”

He added that there had been no passport control in Malaga. “It was bizarre the way we were waved through,” he said. “I could have had Mickey Mouse on my passport. I could have been a known terrorist going through Bournemouth without being stopped.”

A spokesman for Bournemouth airport said it was urgently investigating how Ryanair's handling agent allowed passengers to enter the arrivals building before UKBA staff were in place.

Yesterday the authorities involved were blaming each other. A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said it was the responsibility of the airline to advise their staff when inbound flights arrive.

“We were not notified on this occasion until passengers had passed through to the baggage reclaim area,” he said. “We are concerned that this situation occurred and we are working with the airport to ensure it does not happen again.”

Tony Grunskill, a spokesman for the airport operations company Servisair, said UKBA staff were at fault.

“My understanding is that UKBA staff did not look at the arrivals board,” he said. “The flight arrived off-schedule. Our staff directed passengers downstairs to where they thought the UKBA staff were waiting. We are having top-level meetings with the immigration people and with the airport so that this does not happen again.”

A spokeswoman for Bournemouth airport claimed that immigration officials later gathered 135 of the 180 passengers to check their passports.

“The error was quickly identified by staff, who then arranged for the vast majority of passengers to go through the normal immigration process,” she said.

Shepherd, however, challenged that version of events. “Put it this way, I was one of the last passengers off the flight and I didn't see anyone have their passports checked,” he said. “Most people just walked out into the car park.”

Stephen McNamara, a spokesman for Ryanair, said: “We regret that the UK Border Agency was not notified of the flight's arrival in Bournemouth by our handling agent, and we have reviewed this case to ensure that it does not happen again.”

The flight took off at 2.30pm on Wednesday last week.