THE boss of Scotland’s busiest airport has warned of a “summer of misery” for travellers as a result of cutting the number of immigration officers.
Gordon Dewar said arrival queues at Edinburgh Airport could reach unprecedented lengths as a result of what he called “very serious” staffing cuts.
Mr Dewar has urged Home Secretary Theresa May to take immediate action after recent figures revealed Border Force staff have fallen by 15% compared with last year.
Last year Edinburgh Airport is believed to have had 105 immigration officers available, suggesting that as many 15 staff have left without being replaced.
Concern about delays is mounting after officials revealed that the airport is set to attract the highest-ever number of summer visitors.
Existing queues have already attracted the wrath of passengers including comedian Rory Bremner who last week condemned Edinburgh Airport for security-related delays. Last year Ian Rankin also criticised the management of queues at the airport.
Now, in an open letter to the Home Secretary, Mr Dewar warns: “I’m writing to you as Edinburgh airport prepares to handle more passengers than any other Scottish airport has ever done in a summer period.
“We have seen ourselves grow more in the past three years than we did in the previous ten.
“Our colleagues in the UK Border Force find themselves managing the same substantial growth against a backdrop of reducing head count.”
He added: “They are stretched and it is clear that they are facing a very serious reduction in service levels that will see queue levels hot the worst they’ve ever been at Edinburgh border control.”
Mr Dewar said he knew from experience that the lack of resources will cause passenger complaints.
He told the Home Secretary: “We’re seeing these already and we know that, as greater numbers of tourists arrive here over the the days and weeks – in what will be our busiest summer ever – this will escalate to high political and media circles.
“I ask that you provide your teams on the ground the resources that they require to do their jobs , as the travelling public have come to expect at Edinburgh Airport.”
“We are doing our best, together, to mitigate what I believe is one of the most difficult situations we’ve faced in a welcoming international passengers.”
Mr Dewar added that despite investing in new technology and desks at Edinburgh Airport, there might not be enough staff to operate them.
He added: “This can be especially galling for passengers who do not react well to queuing while looking at empty desks.
“Despite best endeavours on both sides, it is inevitable that we are going to see significantly worse queues that will be very visible to all as a result of the limits on resources.”
A spokeswoman for the Home Office confirmed Theresa May had received the letter and would be responding but declined to comment further.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Staffing border control is a matter for the UK government.
“We would encourage the UK Border Force to ensure that the standard of service provIded keeps pace with the ongoing success of Edinburgh airport in attracting new connections to the rest of the world.”