TOURISTS from Ireland and Britain are being warned they face lengthy delays at European airports this summer after European border checks were tightened.
Passengers have been hit with queues up to four hours long – longer than some of their flights – as they jet off to European holiday destinations this summer.
The delays are being caused by the introduction of tighter European Union-introduced border controls in the ‘Schengen Area’ – the border-free region including most EU countries but not Ireland or the UK.
Here’s everything you need to know…
What has changed?
A new European regulation known as 2017/458 came into effect on April 7 and requires every passport to be checked when arriving and leaving the Schengen zone – comprising most EU countries except Ireland and the UK.
Until then Irish and British holidaymakers found border controls in European countries relatively easy – typically involving waving your passport at an official to be waved through.
But now, every non-Schengen passenger’s passport must be electronically scanned. As a result the processing time for a planeload of Irish or British holidaymakers has gone from a couple of minutes to what could be an hour or more.
Airports in the Schengen Area have until October to implement the new regulations, but the changes have become more noticeable now due to the sheer volume of travelers jetting off on holiday in the peak summer month of August.
Before this summer, travellers would have noticed only the minor irritation of around a 15 minute wait at passport control.
How bad are the delays?
A4E, which represents carriers including Easyjet, Ryanair and British Airways-owner IAG, said delays at some airports have increased by 300 per cent compared with last year.
Managing director Thomas Reynaert said: "Travellers face long lines and can't get on their flights. Queuing for up to four hours has been the top record these days.
"Airports like Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Milan or Brussels are producing shameful pictures of devastated passengers in front of immigration booths, in lines stretching hundreds of metres.”
Queues of up to four hours are rare worst case scenarios, but waiting times have nevertheless increased from mere minutes to at least an hour.
What airports are worst affected?
If you’re flying into airports such as Palma, Barcelona, Alicante or Malaga in Spain this summer from Ireland or Britain, then you could be waiting up to four hours, according to the pressure group Airlines for Europe.
The organisation also warns of long queues at Madrid, Lisbon, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Milan and Brussels, but as they are more associated with business travelers they are not as badly affected as key holiday hubs.
In terms of countries, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal are the worst affected.
What’s the advice?
Holidaymakers are being advised to check with the airports they’re flying to and from before setting off to get an idea of what they will face when they arrive.
Passengers are also advised to arrive a number of hours early, but often check-in opens only two hours or so before departure. Therefore being early enough to be at the front of the queue is a good idea.
Your chances of being delayed depend on how many people are on your flight and which airport you’re flying to and from.
Things could be about to get worse before they get better, as this coming weekend is the peak time for Irish and British families to return from Spain and other Mediterranean countries. If you are able to book your holiday later in the summer, then do so.
Can I claim compensation if I miss my flight?
In short, no. If you miss a plane because you failed to comply with the airline’s requirement about when you reach the gate, then you will have to buy tickets for a new flight.
As planes are obviously fuller than usual this summer, finding another seat could be a difficult and expensive process.
Your details are now being ran through the Schengen Information System, Interpol and the security systems of the country you’re in so there is no one person to blame, particularly not the airlines or travel insurers.
In short, leave yourself plenty of time to check in and get through security and you should be fine.