Passengers facing hours in queues at some European airports … – The Guardian

British passengers flying to and from continental Europe for their summer holidays face the prospect of “devastating” delays because of tougher Schengen area border controls, Europe’s largest airline lobby group has warned.

Aage Duenhaupt, a spokesman for A4E, which represents airlines including BA’s owner, International Airlines Group, Ryanair and easyJet, said thousands of flights had already been delayed because of tighter checks at some EU airports.

Duenhaupt warned that this coming weekend, one of the busiest times of the year for departures from UK airports, there could be delays of up to two hours, with 200,000 passengers arriving in and departing from Mallorca, for example.

“Unless Spanish border control puts in place an emergency plan to avoid queues and help passengers to get through faster, there will be a lot of devastating delays for passengers,” he said.

“It’s a crazy situation. When arriving, at least delayed passengers don’t miss their flights, but when returning, you need to queue up again and could miss your flight. You need to make sure you are on time at the gate.”

However, airlines and tour operators suggested the problems were not widespread, and delays were not always due to immigration issues. Thomas Cook said the border control changes had briefly affected flights in Mallorca in May, when the tour operator briefly brought forward the times for its transfers.

IAG, which also owns Iberia and Vueling, said none of its airlines had delayed flights because of the issue, while Monarch said it was “monitoring the situation” and Ryanair said operations were “running as normal” – although the airline is asking passengers to check in three hours before takeoff.

An easyJet spokesman said: “Like all other European airlines, easyJet wants European governments to take necessary measures to reduce unnecessary passenger disruption.”

The intermittent delays follow the introduction in March of new EU regulations in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. The new rules demand both entry and exit checks on passengers from countries – including Britain – outside the 26-nation Schengen border-free zone.

Passengers’ details are checked against several databases – such as the Schengen information system and Interpol’s record of stolen and lost travel documents.

Member states are not obliged to check every non-Schengen passport until October, when regulation EU 2017/458 comes into full force, but several airports are already doing so and others are carrying out spot checks on selected flights.

Reports from passengers suggest the delays are not universal and depend on the airport, the time of day and the number of border control staff on duty.

“I’ve flown through Lyon airport several times in July and the time to get through customs and security etc has been no different from normal,” one traveller commented on the Guardian website.

Another said they had experienced long lines at Palma but “the carrier had advised us by text the day before to get there early and the delay was probably 30 minutes maximum”. Others said Amsterdam could be “pretty horrific” and reported a one-hour wait at Bergerac in France.

A4E said in a statement that the problems had been caused “because EU border controls are significantly understaffed to comply with tightened immigration checks”, adding that some passengers had missed flights as a result.

It said it had called on the European commission and member states to find a “swift solution” to the problem, citing “shameful pictures” of long queues in airports such as Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Milan and Brussels.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Palma in Mallorca and Paris-Orly airport have been particularly affected. “In Paris it has been a disaster in recent weeks,” Duenhaupt said. “UK passengers in Palma have also been complaining and some have seen three- to four-hour delays in Amsterdam.”

Aéroports de Paris plans to install 87 automatic passport reading machines at Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports but has been held up by delays at the interior ministry which has yet to approve facial recognition.

Last month Marc Rochet, the president of Air Caraïbes, lambasted Orly-Sud for the waiting time at passport control, saying delays had exceeded 60 minutes every day since mid-June, causing “numerous public order problems” with angry passengers.

“In this summer period with heavy traffic, the situation has reached a critical level … with 320 hours of delays [at passport control] for international flights leaving Orly airport’s southern terminal,” Rochet said, adding that passenger frustrations had led to “near riot” situations.

PNC Contact, a French forum for airline stewards, said the situation at Orly was “from another era” or reminiscent of “queues in Soviet shops during the height of communism”. France “shows a very negative face as soon as tourists get off their plane”, it said in a report.

The interior ministry said 100 more border control staff would be on duty at both the French capital’s main airports, with new passport verification systems expected to “significantly reduce delays” from the end of July.

Passengers have aired their grievances over passport control queues on Twitter from destinations across Europe. “Schiphol, is this the norm at your international airport?? Random blocks halfway to the baggage hall?” tweeted one user.

One passenger, Andy Bryant, reported:

Andy Bryant
(@andybryant)

Huge slow snaking queues to get thru passport control before flying from @lyonaeroports. Never seen it this bad. Leave min 2 hours.


July 22, 2017

While the ITV news journalist and presenter Alastair Stewart wrote:

Alastair Stewart
(@alstewitn)

Toulouse airport: definitely not ‘Jeux sans frontieres’ – more ‘Frontieres sans jeux’… bonkers queues at passport control…


July 23, 2017

A spokeswoman for the travel agency and tour operator association 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. However, independent travellers will need to check with their airlines and, where necessary, ensure they factor these longer queuing times into their travel plans when flying in and out of the airport.”

Passengers facing hours in queues at some European airports … – The Guardian