File photograph of the border control queue at Malaga Airport for travellers going to non-EU countries. / sur

Airlines demand more National Police to check passports at Spanish airports to avoid problems travelling to UK

At Easter some 3,000 passengers missed their flights due to long queues that built up at passport control at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport

PILAR MARTÍNEZ Malaga

The Costa del Sol is a favourite destination for British tourists and Malaga Airport could face problems this summer, similar to the situation in Madrid over Easter when 3,000 travellers missed their flights because of long queues for passport control. This is something which has become necessary because of Brexit, but because of the pandemic it had never been put to the test before. Javier Gándara, the president of the Líneas Aéreas association, has warned that more National Police officers are needed urgently to check the passports of passengers heading for the UK, and he said this is one of three challenges that airlines are facing this summer.

Javier Gándara / SUR

“It will be the first summer when passports for travellers to the UK have to be checked and the first when air traffic is likely to be normal, now that the British government has lifted all the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic. There have already been problems at the airports over Easter and we need to avoid this happening in peak season. That’s why it’s important that enough police officers are assigned to handle the high numbers of passengers,” he said.

The UK is the biggest international market for the Costa del Sol, accounting for 30% of arrivals at Malaga Airport and a similar percentage of hotel reservations. That’s why the tourism sector is so keen to make sure no problems arise. In 2019 nearly three million visitors came from the UK and this summer there will be three per cent more airline seats available than there were before the pandemic.

Javier Gándara said the EU is already planning to automate the passport checking system, but until it comes into operation it is essential that there are enough police officers to do the job effectively.

Cost of fuel

Another worry for the airlines this summer is the high cost of fuel, which is double that of a year ago at 150 dollars a barrel. However, Gándara said most companies have reserves so fares will probably not have to be increased this summer. What happens in the medium and long term is another matter, though. He pointed out that the cost of oil is highly volatile and that kerosene accounts for 30% of an airline’s costs, while fares respond to supply and demand. It is difficult to predict what will happen to prices in the medium and long term, he said.

The other concern is that problems could arise due to the management of air space, mostly arising in France because there will be changes to the system this summer and they could affect Spain, especially Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.