EU airport security checks: Holidaymakers ‘face long delays’

Passengers at Palma airportImage copyright
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Palma Airport in Majorca is among those where passengers have faced delays, Abta says

New checks at many EU airports have left holidaymakers facing long queues, an airline lobby group has warned.

Rule changes brought in after recent terror attacks mean people entering and leaving the Schengen area, which allows passport-free movement across much of the EU, face more security checks.

Airlines For Europe (A4E) said people were having to wait for up to four hours and some had missed flights.

The European Commission said the delays were “the price of security”.

‘Devastated passengers’

The new measures introduced in response to attacks in Paris and Brussels mean the details of passengers from non-Schengen countries, such as the UK, are run through databases to alert authorities if they are known to pose a threat.

Practically it means that border staff in the affected countries have to swipe each passport through a reader, rather than waving British holidaymakers though as before.

This has taken up to two minutes per passenger which has led to delays.

A4E, which represents carriers including Easyjet, Ryanair and British Airways-owner IAG, said delays at some airports had increased by 300% compared with last year.

Managing director Thomas Reynaert said: “Travellers face long lines and can’t get on their flights. Queuing for up to four hours has been the top record these days.

“Airports like Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Milan or Brussels are producing shameful pictures of devastated passengers in front of immigration booths, in lines stretching hundreds of metres.”

A4E added that the situation could worsen in the coming weeks as the new regulations have not yet been fully implemented.

A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said: “New, stricter passport checks are resulting in longer queues at some airports, including Palma, which is already busy due to a significant increase in passenger numbers.

“Tour operators will ensure that customers get to the airport in plenty of time so that they are not in danger of missing their flights.”


She urged independent travellers to check for delays with their airlines and “ensure they factor these longer queuing times into their travel plans when flying”.

Border check points should be kept “sufficiently resourced” to keep queuing times as short as possible, she added.

The European Commission has defended the changes, spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said: “More checks can lead to more delays and that is the price of security.

“We understand that there are concerns about EU rules leading to longer waiting periods, but let us be very clear – this is about the security of our citizens.

“All EU member states wanted to have the current rules. We cannot have on the one hand, a joint request from member states to have more checks and controls, to increase security, and at the same time have complaints about longer waiting periods.”

She said it was the responsibility of member states to provide enough resources to make the checks “as smooth as possible”, adding it was “very clear that member states had time to prepare”.

Smaller airports

The BBC’s Brussels reporter, Adam Fleming, said there were issues with smaller airports at the weekend.

There were big queues at Malaga and Palma, Majorca as they were not geared up for the delays. Orly airport in Paris was able to draft in extra staff when the management realised there was a problem.

He said the airlines were issuing this warning to let people know that any coming delays would not be their fault.

The BBC has contacted several airlines and airports. They have said there was no sign of huge delays on Tuesday or any change in advice for passengers with regards to checking in earlier.

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