Detained by Heathrow Airport!


Well who knew that they had this power?

In honesty I don’t think that they do, but clearly their staff seem to think so.

I recently arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 on board a domestic flight. It is worth noting that BA does not require passengers to prove their identity at check-in. Low cost carriers in the UK do require this as a fraud prevention measure.

In order to check the boarding pass with the passenger in the absence of a passport or drivers license, the airports use a form of facial recognition. At the gate a system checks an image taken as you earlier passed through airport security with the passenger at the gate.

At Heathrow T5, some of the low numbered A gates are designated domestic flights and others can be switched between domestic and international flights by using doors that can be opened and closed to direct the flow of passengers.

My flight arrived and I disembarked first and following the signs suddenly found myself in the international section of Terminal 5 – without a passport!

I approached a member of BA staff who was shocked that this has happened and sent me back to the gate. Once there it was clear that someone had woken up to the problem and closed the door! Of course I was stuck on the wrong side and other disembarking passengers were being held in the jet bridge whilst Heathrow Airport staff ran around in panic. After about 5 minutes they opened the doors and let connecting passengers through to the international section, but would not me back to the domestic side. I had a boarding pass showing that I had been on the arriving flight and the crew would be able to identify me, but they were not interested in that.

‘Do you have ID Sir?’

‘No I didn’t and No I am not required to present it.’

‘Stand over there Sir, we’re getting a manager’

I offered that they call the Police or Border Agency as they would have been able to do checks on my ID and confirm that I was a British National, but  Heathrow’s finest refused both of those offers.

Twenty minutes later the Duty Manager appeared and again asked for my papers. I explained again, that I was not required to travel with papers within the UK. She was prepared at that point to accept anything my name on – except my boarding pass on my phone it seemed.

It is as if Heathrow thought that I had somehow managed to get the plane to come to this gate, the BA employee who was confirming that she had made the error and the staff all to conspire to let me get in to the UK. There are easier ways to get in to the country based on the news that I see here.

The Heathrow Airport staff member went off on the radio again and after another ten minutes came back and said I could go! How quickly the rules change.

Of course, by this point the furthest door had been locked and I could not get to domestic arrivals. I went back to the Heathrow Airport staff!

So, Heathrow Airport refused to allow me to go about my lawful business for 30 minutes. I am awaiting a reply to my complaint.


  1. Did you really travel with absolutely nothing with your name on it (no credit card, no business card, etc), or were you just taking up the resources of BA and BAA to try to make some sort of point?

  2. You seriously go about with NO identification? No medical ID, credit card, driver’s license? Checkbook?

  3. Whoops, bit of a boo-boo there by HAL! Imagine if they’d done it the other way round! Look forward to hearing the outcome of your complaint.

Comments are closed.