Tuesday, 09 May 2017

Long queues at Barcelona airport’s passport control due to Spanish police staff shortages


Prat de Llobregat (ACN).- Passengers complained on social media networks on Monday about long queues once more at the Barcelona airport’s passport controls. Sources at the Catalan Department of Territory and Sustainability confirmed a 40–50 minute wait, almost twice as long as normal. The Department claims the delay was due to a lack of police staff. According to the same sources, the situation went back to normal once staff was reinforced. On the other hand, the Spanish police said that this Monday there was more personnel at the passport controls than a week ago and attributed this one time situation to the fact that several flights arrived together in a very short period of time.

On Monday morning, several passengers expressed their anger through social media networks concerning the long queues at the Spanish police’s passport controls in the Barcelona airport. Some of the complaints, sent on Twitter, were accompanied by photographs, in which the density and length of the queues was obvious. The passengers criticized the long wait at the check points, where the Spanish police agents inspect IDs and passports of European passengers who enter or exit the Schengen Area, in application of the new anti-terrorist measures that became effective on 7 April.

In comments to the CNA, Spanish police sources explained that the situation was due to an accumulation of passengers who arrived all at once at the checkpoints. The same sources assured that the queues were also caused by several flights arriving together during a short period of time. The Spanish police blamed Aena for bad flight management and programming without taking into account the capacity of the Barcelona airport’s infrastructure. However, according to Aena, flight arrival programming this Monday at the Barcelona airport hardly differed from that of any another Monday, with a total of 994 planned operations between departures and arrivals.

Regarding passport controls, Spanish police said that on Monday at mid-morning there were nine stations activated at the same time, with sufficient staff to attend the passengers. The number of open stations has increased threefold compared to a fortnight ago, when the passport controls were oversaturated resulting in two hour wait times, coinciding with the long weekend of 1 May. Sources at the Department of Territory and Sustainability of the Catalan government, in turn, attributed the queues to the lack of police staff. For this reason, according to those same sources the situation was “solved the moment police staff reinforcement was made effective”.

The long queues at the Barcelona airport passport controls are becoming a déjà-vu for passengers who pass through Catalonia’s busiest airport. During the long weekend of 1 May passengers used social media to voice their complaints about overwhelmed passport check points, which led to two hour waits, causing flight delays and lost connections. Spanish police forces admitted a lack of staff. Aena, in turn, made clear that the responsibility for passport control lies exclusively with the Spanish Ministry of Interior.

In response to the collapse at the passport controls on the 1 May weekend, the Barcelona city council sent letters to the Minister of Infrastructure, Iñigo de la Serna, and the Delegate of the Spanish Government in Catalonia, Enric Millo, demanding more police staff at the Barcelona airport. The letter expressed the city council’s concern that this situation was “clearly affecting traveler's comfort as they pass through Barcelona airport and is therefore damaging Barcelona’s image”. The city council also reminded the Spanish ministry that they will need to take into account that there are more international flights and new destinations during the upcoming summer season. Even though the delegate of the Spanish government, Enric Millo, answered the claims within two days, blaming the two hour wait at passport controls on “technical problems”, while promising more police staff, this Monday passengers again experienced a 40–50 minute wait at passport control.

Barcelona airport is the second busiest airport in Spain with almost 44 million passengers in 2016. The busiest period last year was between May and October, which registered more than 4 million passengers per month. In 2016 Barcelona Airport registered a higher increase in the number of passengers than its competitor, Madrid-Barajas Airport. However, with 50.4 million passengers in 2016, Madrid-Barajas continues to be Spain’s busiest airport.

  • Passengers_Prat

  • Passengers at Barcelona El Prat airport (by ACN)