Spanish Authorities Implement Plan for Airport Chaos

Airport chaos has been widely reported across Europe in the past month, as post-pandemic tourism levels continue to rise. Spain has been particularly impacted by this, with huge numbers of Britons continuing to choose Spain for their annual holidays.

In fact, by April 2022, Spain had managed to welcome international tourists at 85% of the levels they were experiencing in April 2019, meaning that the numbers of visitors are increasing rapidly.

In fact, it is hoped that Spain will reach the milestone 83.7 million holidaymakers that visited the country in the year before the pandemic again soon.

But whilst the international tourists are ready for a holiday, are the authorities in their destination country ready for them? Peak holiday season hasn’t yet begun, but there are already concerns that Spain’s travel machine can’t cope with the high numbers of visitors it is processing each day. Here’s everything you need to know:

Huge Queues at Passport Control

Whilst flight cancellations by major airline carriers are posing their own unique set of challenges, the main problem from the point of view of Spanish passport control is the huge queues visitors are facing on arrival in the country. It was estimated by Iberia, Spain's flagship airline, that since March 2022, an incredible 15,000 passengers have missed connecting flights from Madrid’s Barajas airport as a result of huge delays in getting through passport control. This is a nationwide problem, not a situation that is unique to Madrid. The combination of eased travel restrictions, increased tourist demand and a lack of airport staff due to pandemic period cutbacks has led to a perfect storm of airport delays and confusion. This has only be exacerbated by the fact that the UK is no longer in the EU and so British tourists (the main tourism market in Spain) must face longer and more stringent passport controls.

The good news is that Spanish authorities are aware of the problems tourists are facing in their country, and are working quickly to tackle these problems head on. As a result, the following two measures will be introduced to speed up the passport control process:

Increased Border Guards Deployed

Much of the problems faced in Spanish airports could be mitigated by having larger numbers of border guards, so that tourists can be processed more quickly. The Spanish authorities are therefore deploying an additional 500 border guards to operate in Spain’s 12 busiest airports. This will be implemented immediately.

The 12 airports chosen for this increased staff quota are: Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Girona, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Madrid, Málaga, Mallorca, Menorca, Valencia, Fuerteventura, Sevilla and Tenerife Sur. This will increase the number of specialist border control police officers in this airport from 1225 to 1725, That is 300 more than were posted at these airports when Spanish tourism was at its peak in 2019.

This change will be particularly beneficial to non-EU travellers from around the world, in particular those from the UK, and this increase is said to be a permanent one rather than a temporary measure for the summer season. 

EU e-gates Opened to British Tourists

Before Brexit came into force, British tourists could scan their biometric passports at the e-gates for easy and speedy border control access. But these gates were closed to British citizens after Brexit, because as non-EU nationals they were subject to stricter border controls. In a bid to speed up passport control, however, the Spanish interior ministry has announced that they will reopen these Automated Border Control E-Gates to Britons once more.

In practice, this will mean that just like other EU/Schengen nationals, Britons will be able to scan their biometric passports as they could before Brexit came into force.  However, because Britons remain non-EU citizens, some reports suggest they may still have to have their passports stamped at separate Brit-specific manned posts that have been created at some airports in Spain. The 12 Spanish airports using this scheme are Alicante, Barcelona, Bilbao, Girona, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Madrid, Málaga, Mallorca, Menorca, Valencia, Fuerteventura, Sevilla and Tenerife Sur. It has been suggested that this will benefit all third-party nationals, as they will get through non-EU passport control faster without British tourists filling the space. This scheme has already been introduced in Portugal, where it has proved successful.

Stay Up To Date

Make sure you stay up to date with the latest news on departures and arrivals by checking the airport websites themselves, here we've listed the most popular Spanish aiports for you to check.

Malaga Airport

Seville Airport

Barcelona Airport

Madrid Airport

Alicante Airport

Gran Canaria Airport

Tenerife South Airport

Palma Airport

Ibiza Airport

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