The Spanish airport authority Aena and the Spanish interior ministry yesterday announced that immediate action is being taken to solve the major problem of passport control backlogs at Palma airport for British travellers. In a statement yesterday Aena said that an agreement has been reached between them and the National Police to work together in resolving the issues and that three steps are being taken.
The first is that ten extra customer care staff are going to be on hand to explain to passengers, especially those arriving, to have their passports ready and to also encourage more people to use the individual passport scanner system. Secondly, an extra 20 automatic scanners are going to be installed. And thirdly, two double passport control cabins are already in operation in Terminal A departures and another has been installed in arrivals. So, there are now a total of five double passport control booths in departures and three in arrivals plus the increased number of the ABC System automatic scanners.
The national government delegate to the Balearics, Maria Salom, said yesterday that she is well aware of the problem, but she explained that new European Union border crossing controls were introduced back in May (EU regulation 2017/458). This involves much stricter physical passport controls for non-European Union and Schengen residents, such as the British.
But according to the Spanish Association of Airlines and other airline bodies, the problem of Palma’s passport bottleneck is not only forcing thousands of passengers to queue, for hours in some cases, in non-air conditioned areas, it is also leading to passengers losing their flights as well as flights missing their take-off slots and therefore being delayed. This having a knock-on effect on those passengers waiting to fly out to Majorca on the return trip.
In a letter to the interior minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido Alvarez, the Spanish airline industry states that over 100 passengers a day are missing their flights due to having been stuck in the passport control queues. Any aircraft taking off 15 minutes later than scheduled is officially considered delayed.
So, passengers in the UK waiting at airports to be collected by a plane which has been delayed from Palma are within their rights to claim compensation from their respective airline. Moreover, the airlines informed the minister that non-Schengen flights were already susceptible to delays because of the general air traffic congestion in Spanish airspace, especially during the peak summer months, such as now. In many cases, these flights are quite often delayed for at least an hour.
On average, it is taking at least 30 minutes to get through passport control in Palma, but at peaks times, as over 70 people pointed out on the Bulletin Facebook site yesterday, it can be much longer. "We’ve been stuck there for as long as two hours on occasions with limited and unprepared toilet facilities and shops which are all closed," one reader posted yesterday.
In fact the vast majority of the comments were highly negative and from people who have experienced the passport nightmare. But it appears the matter is being dealt with.