The border control queue for travellers going to non-EU countries. / SUR

Passengers fume at two-hour queues and missed flights at Malaga Airport

British travellers are allegedly facing long delays at the passport control area, that have been made worse as a result of Brexit

IGNACIO LILLO

Passengers flying out from Malaga-Costa del Sol Airport, especially to the United Kingdom or another non-EU country, are advised to arrive at least two hours before their scheduled departure time, following reports of long delays.

For weeks, passenger complaints about queues at the two checkpoints – security and passport control - have intensified, with reports of up to two hours of waiting.

José María Ortega, an engineer from Malaga who works in the United Kingdom, is blunt: "You can miss your flight.”

The first delay is at the security area, which all passengers must pass through "where it can already take about 45 minutes to be searched."

For those who travel within Spain or to EU countries there should be no more problems.

A long queue for the security checkpoint at Malaga Airport. / SUR

Border control delays

But those who fly to the United Kingdom and other countries outside the European Union (for example, to Turkey) also have to pass border control checks.

In total, according to José's calculations, both procedures can take from an hour and a half to two hours before accessing the boarding area. "You get anxious and scared of missing your flight," he said.

Since the beginning of October, two queues have been enabled at passport control, for EU and non-EU citizens. It is true that European citizens now pass through faster, but the British, in particular, are aggrieved that it has become worse for non-Europeans.

As a result of Brexit, the British and other travellers to or from the United Kingdom must have their passports stamped; as is the case with Russians, Turks and any other country that does not belong to the Schengen area, which means that much more time is wasted in this process.

The situation has been like this for months and is generating a lot of concern among travellers, according to regular users of the airport.

A bad image

Another passenger has told SUR: "Last Saturday the border control queue stretched back to the Duty Free area and it continued to grow. This is getting worse with the return of British tourists," he added.

The traveller said he witnessed a group miss their flight: “They were protesting, shouting and crying at the boarding gate,” and added: “These people are our tourists and we are giving them a very bad image. This has to be fixed, the airport is not prepared for so many people at the passport controls. It has caught them out and they should be worried."

The airport operator, Aena, has explained that it is working with the National Police to ease delays at border control, although they point out that this work is purely within the hands of the force.

Staff shortage

The National Police, responsible for border control, have said that the maximum delay at passport control is 30 minutes, and that the 45-minute delay at the security check is the reposnsibility of the Guardia Civil and Aena.

A spokesperson for the force said: "No passenger takes longer than 30 minutes to cross, which is a reasonable margin on a Euroepan level." The spokesperson added that on a normal day, 80% of the booths are open and this is extended at busier times.

"The queues are Aena's problem," said the spokesperson.

However, Mariló Valencia, general secretary of the Unified Police Union (SUP) in Andalucía, acknowledges that part of the problem is due to the lack of staff. “After the pandemic there has been no reinforcement of the workforce, which means that we have to face a high number of flights, condensed into a short space of time, in which up to 4,000 passengers are moved in an hour.”

In Mariló's opinion, at least 50 more National Police officers are necessary at the airport, while pointing out that the problem also affects Aena and the Guardia Civil, since the security controls to enter the airside zone are their responsibility.