A HOLIDAY-GOER has spoken of a "hideous" ordeal at Stansted Airport where crowds of passengers were left unable to pass through border security due to a major malfunction.

Colchester resident Nanita Albone, 55, was returning from a seven day trip to Arrecife, Lazarote, with her partner, last Tuesday evening when she landed at the Essex airport. 

After disembarking the aircraft, she found herself stuck at the border control area with thousands of other passengers after its Border Force e-gate system went offline.

She queued from 7.50pm to 9pm before eventually getting through, but only because she was able to use a fast-track service she had previously paid for.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Location - Stansted AirportLocation - Stansted Airport (Image: Newsquest)

Nanita beleives many others, however, were likely waiting for up to three hours to get through, causing chaos and pandemonium. 

During the lengthy delays, the Colchester resident also claims no staff were available to communicate with, no water was offered out, and some pregnant women had to sit on the floor.

Nanita said: “They were trying to set up manual checking of passports, but it was hideous, there was not enough staff.

“Thank god no fire alarm went off or that could have been dangerous. The Border Force staff were also abrupt.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Happy - an image of Nanita AlboneHappy - an image of Nanita Albone (Image: Nanita Albone)

“I witnessed a Border Force operative be abrupt to an elderly man who was pushing his partner in a wheelchair waiting to go through. Politeness costs nothing.

“When technical issues happen within minutes, a back-up plan should kick in instantly.”

The issue has since been put down to a technical outage affecting UK Border Force e-gates which also caused chaos at Heathrow, Gatwick, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol airports.

To help deal with the situation, Stansted Airport deployed additional staff to help manage queues and identify passengers requiring assistance, including passengers with reduced mobility and those with young children.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Awful - an image of the building crowds at Stansted AirportAwful - an image of the building crowds at Stansted Airport (Image: Nanita Albone)

Saffron Walden Reporter: Problem - an image which shows many disgruntled passengers at Stansted Airport Problem - an image which shows many disgruntled passengers at Stansted Airport (Image: Nanita Albone)

Extra medics were on standby in case of any medical emergency during the outage period, and free water is said to have been distributed at multiple points along the airport’s arrival routes.

Airlines were asked by the airport to keep passengers on arriving flights so they could remain seated, to allow the exiting volumes of passengers to get through border control.

The Home Office sent technical staff to fix the e-gates and they were back online shortly after midnight the same evening.

A Home Office spokesman said: "As soon as engineers detected a wider system network issue at 19:44pm last night, a large scale contingency response was activated within 6 minutes.

"At no point was border security compromised and there is no indication of malicious cyber activity.

"We apologise to travellers caught up in disruption and thank our partners, including airlines for their co-operation and support."