RwandAir launched a flight yesterday from Kigali (Rwanda's capital) via Brussels to London Gatwick and then nonstop back to Kigali, all on the same aircraft. The intent behind the intermediate stop in Brussels was to take passengers from Kigali to Brussels, but of course also to take passengers from Brussels back to Kigali via Gatwick, where they would just stay in the aircraft during the 1:30h stopover.
However, RwandAir seemingly didn't consider that citizens of certain countries, Rwanda among others, in many cases need to be in possession of a UK airside transit visa when transiting via the UK (Gatwick in this case), even if they stay on board of the aircraft or in the terminal without passing immigration. Also, all passengers on this flight transiting in Gatwick would have to deboard and undergo security checks in the terminal. Since this is a major inconvenience for passengers originating in Brussels and takes more time than has been scheduled for the stopover, RwandAir has not been allowing passengers to book the flight from Brussels to Kigali.
You can read the whole story here (in French).
I have some questions about this whole issue:
- Why would the UK require certain people to have a visa when transiting airside? These people are guaranteed to never set foot on UK soil, at least for immigration purposes, so why bother about them?
- How does the UK control whether an airside transit passenger is in possession of a visa? By definition, an airside transit does not involve immigration checks, so the only interaction with authorities which comes to my mind when remaining airside is a security check on your way to your next gate, and even that is not always required. However, at security you typically just present your boarding pass and your passport and the agent checks whether the names match. So at which point would the UK even be controlling your visa? This is an even more interesting question when people actually stay on board of the aircraft and don't interact with anybody at the airport at all.
- Why does the UK insist on performing security checks on passengers who have already been cleared in Brussels and have stayed in a secure environment (the aircraft) since then?