UK rules out cyber threat after resolving passport gate outage

People wait in line at Heathrow airport, after the Border Force suffered a nationwide technical issue that affected passport control, in London

By William James

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's Home Office said border control systems are operational after an outage that it deemed was not a cyber attack led to lengthy queues and chaotic scenes at airports nationwide.

"At no point was border security compromised and there is no indication of malicious cyber activity", the Home Office said in an emailed statement early on Wednesday.

Britain's biggest airport, Heathrow, said all of its border control systems were running as usual and that it expected no issues when operations re-start in the morning. London Stansted Airport also confirmed the outage had been resolved.

Long queues built up at British airports on Tuesday night after the Border Force suffered a nationwide technical issue. One traveller described border officials manually processing passport holders.

Britain's biggest airports, including Heathrow, Stanstead and London Gatwick in southern England, Manchester in northern England, and Edinburgh in Scotland, earlier said they were aware of a nationwide problem and that staff were working with Border Force officials to resolve it.

"All the e-gates were totally blank and there was just a lot of chaotic scenes," said Sam Morter, 32, who was returning to Heathrow from a holiday in Sri Lanka. He made it through the airport after around 90 minutes.

Videos posted on social media platform X showed long queues at passport desks at airports including Heathrow and Stansted.

"We are working closely with Border Force and affected airports to resolve the issue as soon as possible and apologise to all passengers for the inconvenience caused," a Home Office spokesperson told Reuters earlier.

The automated border gate system also crashed in May 2023, causing long queues and hours of delays for passengers.

The air traffic system also went into meltdown in August 2023 when a technical problem disrupted the National Air Traffic Service for several hours.

Border Force is a law enforcement command within the Home Office, or interior ministry, which operates passport control and e-gates at airports.

(Reporting by William James in London and Maria Ponnezhath, Chandni Shah and Gursimran Kaur in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Kanjyik Ghosh; Writing by Kate Holton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Christopher Cushing)