By Humphrey Carter

BRITISH airports and airlines are racing against the clock in an attempt to reduce air passenger delays at UK airports to a minimum when Spain enforces the Advance Passengers Information scheme on June 13.

There have been growing fears that air passengers flying to Spain from Britain could face lengthy delays this summer because of Spain's decision to introduce the U.S.-style borders controls nearly a year ahead of the rest of Europe.

The Advance Passenger Information (API) scheme comes into force in under two weeks time and will apply only to countries that have not signed up to the Schengen Treaty, such as Britain, which allows free travel, without presentation of a passport (a national identity card is sufficient), between the 15 European countries that are Schengen members.

THE API scheme will require all airlines to collect full name, nationality, date of birth and passport numbers from each passenger.
The UK tourism and travel industry asked Spain to hold-off and introduce the new scheme in line with the rest of Europe next year but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

In consequence, some UK airports and airlines will not have the necessary equipment fitted at check-in desks to enable the API scheme to be carried out electronically and swiftly leading to delays as the data is taken down in long hand by check-in staff.

However, British Airways, for example, are offering an on-line service so passengers can provide the information before travelling. Yesterday no-frills airline easyJet, one of the largest carriers of UK passengers to the Balearics, announced that it is also posting an on-line API service on its website for all passengers coming to Spain from June 11 onwards.

The Association of British Travel Agents, which has also complained to the Spanish authorities, has tried to play down concerns over massive dalays but has been forced to admit that some are going to be inevitable as Spain has not given the airlines and airports sufficient time to purchase and install the necessary equipment such as swipe machines to read the new chip-passports.

The Spanish authorities also confirmed yesterday that the API will apply to all passengers including babies and minors. Passengers failing to comply with the new regulations will not be allowed to fly.

Airlines caught carrying passengers who have failed to submit the required information prior to departure will also be subjected to fines of up to 60'000 euros.


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