Aena will invest 150 million in biometric border gates, but it looks like you´ll have to pay

The queues at border controls at airports for non-EU citizens that airlines have been denouncing in recent months, and to which UK passport holders now have to join as a result of Brexit, could soon (or not) become a thing of the past with the implementation of the new biometric registration system called EES (Entry/Exit System).

To try to reduce the queues, Spanish airport operator Aena will invest 150 million euro in the implementation of technological systems that streamline controls. However, there´s a catch, as the company that manages the airports will transfer these costs to the airlines through the tariff system, as stated in the Royal Decree-law of measures for transport approved this week, which no doubt means that the airlines will in turn pass the additional cost onto you, the passenger.

Through one of the provisions of the document, Aena assumes all the necessary investment, close to the aforementioned 150 million euro, and will also cover all the costs of implementation, maintenance and support staff other than police, but that can facilitate the management of queues. These processes will be carried out under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, which has the authority, and will cost around 10 million euro each year.

Despite the fact that the airport manager will assume this important cost, the same document already establishes the mechanism for Aena to recover the costs through the DORA tariff system.

It should be remembered that after complaints from the airlines about the queues that made their customers with passports from outside the European Union miss flights, the Government reinforced the number of troops at the controls and carried out the purchase of 1,500 border inspection units, with an estimated value of 20 million.

The latest results of Aena, corresponding to the end of the second half of the year, showed the beginning of the recovery, showing a profit of 163.8 million euro . Almost at the same time that these figures were known, the company’s board of directors approved its proposal to raise rates for next year, specifically from March 2023, and established it at 0.69%. In this way, the income per passenger would go from the 9.95 euro that it obtains now to 10.01 euro.

This decision collides with the current trend, since in 2022 this cost was reduced by 3% compared to the increases that occurred in the most relevant infrastructures. However, and as usual, it will be the National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC) that has the last word in this regard after listening to the airlines themselves, which continue to struggle to recover pre-pandemic traffic levels.

We will have to wait and see whether the plan will ease the flow of passengers will work, or whether it will just create another queue for those currently having to use the egates, then queue again for the passport stamp (passport stamping is due to end in May, 2023), and maybe now this new process of biometric scanning.