On a normal day, those part of the UK’s Border Force man the gates at Heathrow. Their main objective is to “protect the borders from commodities and people that shouldn’t be in the UK.” This could range from “controlled drugs” to “substandard meats” and anyone who isn’t “conducive to the UK’s good nature”. Illegal substances, weapons, and human trafficking is still occurring, and it is their task to stop them from entering the UK.

    During the first lockdown, the majority of jobs assigned to Border Force switched from “primarily a face-people environment to a cargo environment” where they were involved in examining more freight to ensure nothing illegal was being moved into the country. The member I spoke to had to work for many months on stopping substandard products being delivered into the UK and being placed on the mass market or trying to cut into the NHS supply train to remove clinical masks and send them elsewhere. As there was an alarming shortage of PPE equipment at the beginning of the pandemic in the UK, this was a very important job; now many months later the government has stockpiled and so the issue has declined in severity.

    However not everyone has stopped travelling these past few months. Historically, Heathrow sees on average 150,000 to 200,000 passengers a day streaming through the airport as well as the daily 1,000 flights to contend with. When the virus hit and the first lockdown eased in, the lowest flow of passengers reached “around 2,400” in one day – an extreme decrease in numbers. Two terminals have also been shut due to the lack of people-passengers which leads to a confusion for Border Forces as airlines are not leaving nor returning at their usual terminals. During the second lockdown, Border Force has not seen as much of a sudden decline of passengers, with around “15,000 to 20,000” a day, as people, airports and other countries themselves have become accustomed to restrictions and therefore passengers can continue travelling safely for work. Yet for Border Force it is still a “strange environment” to be in; everyone wearing masks over their faces, some even going to the upmost safety of wearing full bio-hazard suits and gloves.

    As Border Force is part of the government’s and the UK’s Civil Service their jobs are not in danger, however for pilots, cabin crews, handling baggage, and any other airport staff, it has been testing times. No one can truly know or foresee when “the demand for travel will return” – will people continue to be paranoid and nervous about airports and flying in general, for example sitting in close proximities to others for long-haul journeys? It is an “unquantifiable question”, as the member of Border Force put it. Their personal hopes would be to see travel and the aviation industries become strong again, even stronger than they were before Covid-19. Business such as Virgin Atlantic, and especially British Airways who’ve been around in some form for 100 years, have grown exponentially from recent years, and it would be detrimental to an advancing society if they did not return to their powerful place’s pre-pandemic: a viewpoint many people can agree with.  

    In a time where airports and the industry is struggling, the role of Border Force patrols are more important than ever.