By Humphrey Carter

BRITISH holidaymakers coming to the Balearics this summer could face long airport delays before they even reach the departure lounge because of new anti-terror security measures the Spanish government has decided to bring into force before airports and airlines are fully equipped to meet the new European Union regulations.

A number of readers have already written to the Bulletin expressing their concerns about the extent of the disruption which will be caused once the Spanish system, which will require every one of the millions of travellers flying to the Balearics from Britain, including local residents, to provide detailed personal information when they check-in.

The Advance Passenger Information (API) regime comes into force on June 13 and will only apply to non-Schengen EU member states, Great Britain, Ireland and Switzerland, and is similar to that introduced for travellers flying to the United States in 2004.

The Spanish government could have waited until next year when, in line with EU recommendations, other member states will introduce the API system, having given airlines and airports time to prepare and therefore avoid disruptions to millions of people's summer holidays.

The British holiday industry is not impressed. It tried to persuade Spain to wait and ABTA, the Association of British Travel Agents, has also criticised Spain's decision.

However, ABTA spokesperson Sean Tipton told the Bulletin this week that the delays and disruption are not expected to be as bad as the British press has been claiming. “Some of the reports have got out of control and are rather alarmist. But, we would have preferred if Spain had waited until all the airports and airlines are ready. “The timing could not have been worse either, right on the eve of the summer season. “It may disuade some people from holidaying in Spain,” he said.
What is more, Spain appears not to appreciate the fact that not all Britons have the latest generation passports which contain all the required information in a chip.

So, while many airlines and airports are still waiting for scanners to read the new generation passports, those checking-in where there is no scanner and they do not have a new generation passport will have to wait while the required information is taken down by hand.

And that is where delays and disruption are going to be caused.
Some airlines are offering passengers an on-line service. ABTA's advice is for all travellers to check with their airline or tour operauopr what pre-check-in facilities are provided to avoid getting trapped at the airport, or allow even extra time to check-in.

British travellers have also complained about the long delays at passport control on arrival in Palma.
Some have been forced to queue for as long as 40 minutes, myself include, to pass through passport control when arriving at Terminal A.
The problem is that all passports are being swiped, glasses and hats off too, but two police officers sharing a scanner is not a very effective process.


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