UK tourists to some of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations could face hours of delays because of additional entry checks at EU airports in a no-deal Brexit, a new Which? Travel investigation has found.
Which? has identified the EU airports where UK passport holders could face disruption and found that Alicante in Spain faces being worst affected.
43 per cent of all passengers entering the airport arrive from the UK. In a no-deal Brexit, it would need the staff and resources to deal with an additional 201 hours of immigration checks, on average, every single day.
Six of the top 10 busiest airports for UK arrivals are in Spain. As well as Alicante, Tenerife South, Lanzarote, Malaga, Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca airports all potentially face severe difficulties if a contingency plan is not put in place to manage the new requirements.
The Spanish government has yet to announce how it will tackle the additional immigration checks. This means that immigration officials will be obliged to check UK visitors’ passport validity, passport expiry date, purpose and length of stay, and whether visitors can support themselves financially.
The European Tourism Association (ETOA) has estimated that additional checks required in a no-deal Brexit could add an extra 90 seconds for each UK passport holder. It would take a single passport lane in an EU airport an extra 17,010 seconds, or nearly 5 hours, to process 189 passengers on a single Ryanair flight, if all arrivals had UK passports.
And with each new flight arriving, that additional processing time will lead to further delays. When Which? checked Alicante airport’s arrivals on 22 February, it found that as many as 10 planes arrive from the UK in a single hour.
Although Faro airport in Portugal has the biggest proportion of UK arrivals overall, the Portuguese prime minister has already announced plans to ease congestion by opening special fast-track lanes at both Faro and Funchal airports.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel Editor, said:
“Airports can be chaotic at the best of times, but if additional checks at passport control in Spain, Italy and other popular EU destinations are implemented in the event of a no-deal, it seems that very long queues are going to be an unwanted side effect.
“Until there is a deal or these airports announce simpler arrangements, you should consider what you may need if you have to fly to them – as it is very likely that you’ll be in a queue for several hours. Make sure you have food, water and essentials for kids like nappies to hand.”
Notes to editors
- International intra-EU passenger numbers provided by Eurostat – the statistical office of the European Union. The additional hours of customs checks is based on carrying out 90 seconds of additional checks on 2.9 million passengers, and 8000 average passengers each day.
Some of the UK arrivals won’t be British. They may be EU nationals returning home, for example, and they therefore won’t be subject to additional checks. However, given the airports at the top of the list are the most popular UK holiday destinations, it’s likely to the vast majority of passengers will be UK passport holders.
- When Which? asked Spain’s national border agency, the Guardia Civil, whether it plans to add extra facilities or employ more staff, it did not respondA spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed to Which? that “as of the withdrawal date, UK nationals will not be entitled to use the separate lanes provided for EU/EEA/CH citizens”. It also stated that British holidaymakers “will be subject to thorough checks of all entry conditions for third country nationals upon entry”.
- A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed to Which? that “as of the withdrawal date, UK nationals will not be entitled to use the separate lanes provided for EU/EEA/CH citizens”. It also stated that British holidaymakers “will be subject to thorough checks of all entry conditions for third country nationals upon entry”.