Airlines demanding reinforcement of border controls and warn of more delays for Brits

The Asociación de Líneas Aéreas (ALA), an association representing airlines, has demanded that the Ministry of the Interior reinforce passport controls at all Spanish airports to avoid the queues which have been reported over recent days, which the Government denies are due to the lack of police officers.

As pointed out by the president of ALA, Javier Gándara, the long queues especially affect the Madrid-Barajas airport, specifically terminals T4 and T1, causing 1,000 passengers to lose their connecting flights in a single weekend, now totalling 4,500 passengers who have missed flights so far in March.

The problem is affecting certain time windows, where there are, according to ALA, not enough national police officers and this means that when a series of intercontinental flights are arriving, mainly at dawn, the long queue that is generated means that they cannot catch their connection flights to the different national destinations.

For this reason, the resources that are put in to be able to meet the demand “have to be adapted in number, but also in time distribution to how the flights come and go,” he specified.

However, the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, has denied that there is a lack of personnel in the passport control of Madrid-Barajas, which has gone from 360 officials last year to 450 in 2023, and has affirmed that there have been no complaints about missing a flight due to queues.

“It is quite the opposite,” he assured in statements to the media, where he in turn stressed that Interior provides its service “adequately” and is the institution that is putting “personal and real means.”

“There has not been any request or complaint regarding the loss of flight caused by the control of documentation at the airport,” said the minister, who pointed out, somewhat contradicting his claim that there are no queues or problems, that if this has occurred due to “another circumstance”, it is no longer the responsibility of his Ministry.

In this sense, he recalled that last year it was found that there was no lack of personnel and that the delays in passport control were “almost imperceptible”.

The airlines have recalled that, in the case of Spain, more than 85% of international tourists who visit us do so by air, so the airport is “their first perception of the country, and of course, the one that these are endless queues or loss of connections is the last thing we need to be able to continue influencing recovery,” according to Gándara.

The airlines “find it completely unacceptable” that this is happening at this point, when only the summer season is starting and Easter has not yet begun.

Last summer, Spain was the great positive exception because the airports worked correctly, with adequate resources, and air navigation worked correctly, as well as the airlines, Gándara pointed out.

“The only exception that there was last summer was the passport controls for passengers from third countries”, which now includes the United Kingdom due to Brexit, and Gándara fears that, if the means are not put in place, this could be repeated this year, in which “it is likely that it will already become at traffic levels similar to those before the pandemic.”

Although, for the moment, the problem is affecting Barajas, soon the large flow of British passengers will begin and, then, it will no longer only be a possible problem for Madrid, but also for other tourist airports with a large number of passengers in the United Kingdom such as those of the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Malaga or Alicante, the association has warned.