Passengers facing hours in queues at some European airports | World news

British passengers flying to and from continental Europe for their summer holidays face the prospect of “devastating” delays because of tougher Schengen area border controls, Europe’s largest airline lobby group has warned.

Aage Duenhaupt, a spokesman for A4E, which represents airlines including BA’s owner, International Airlines Group, Ryanair and easyJet, said thousands of flights had already been delayed because of tighter checks at some EU airports.

Duenhaupt warned that this coming weekend, one of the busiest times of the year for departures from UK airports, there could be delays of up to two hours, with 200,000 passengers arriving in and departing from Mallorca, for example.

“Unless Spanish border control puts in place an emergency plan to avoid queues and help passengers to get through faster, there will be a lot of devastating delays for passengers,” he said.

“It’s a crazy situation. When arriving, at least delayed passengers don’t miss their flights, but when returning, you need to queue up again and could miss your flight. You need to make sure you are on time at the gate.”

However, airlines and tour operators suggested the problems were not widespread, and delays were not always due to immigration issues. Thomas Cook said the border control changes had briefly affected flights in Mallorca in May, when the tour operator briefly brought forward the times for its transfers.

IAG, which also owns Iberia and Vueling, said none of its airlines had delayed flights because of the issue, while Monarch said it was “monitoring the situation” and Ryanair said operations were “running as normal” – although the airline is asking passengers to check in three hours before takeoff.

An easyJet spokesman said: “Like all other European airlines, easyJet wants European governments to take necessary measures to reduce unnecessary passenger disruption.”

The intermittent delays follow the introduction in March of new EU regulations in the wake of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. The new rules demand both entry and exit checks on passengers from countries – including Britain – outside the 26-nation Schengen border-free zone.

Passengers’ details are checked against several databases – such as the Schengen information system and Interpol’s record of stolen and lost travel documents.

Member states are not obliged to check every non-Schengen passport until October, when regulation EU 2017/458 comes into full force, but several airports are already doing so and others are carrying out spot checks on selected flights.

Reports from passengers suggest the delays are not universal and depend on the airport, the time of day and the number of border control staff on duty.

“I’ve flown through Lyon airport several times in July and the time to get through customs and security etc has been no different from normal,” one traveller commented on the Guardian website.

Another said they had experienced long lines at Palma but “the carrier had advised us by text the day before to get there early and the delay was probably 30 minutes maximum”. Others said Amsterdam could be “pretty horrific” and reported a one-hour wait at Bergerac in France.

A4E said in a statement that the problems had been caused “because EU border controls are significantly understaffed to comply with tightened immigration checks”, adding that some passengers had missed flights as a result.

It said it had called on the European commission and member states to find a “swift solution” to the problem, citing “shameful pictures” of long queues in airports such as Madrid, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Milan and Brussels.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, Palma in Mallorca and Paris-Orly airport have been particularly affected. “In Paris it has been a disaster in recent weeks,” Duenhaupt said. “UK passengers in Palma have also been complaining and some have seen three- to four-hour delays in Amsterdam.”

A spokesman for Aena, a Spanish state-owned company that runs 46 airports, including Palma, said passport borders were the responsibility of the national police corps, with which it was working to introduce the new checks.

He said the police had increased the number of employees working at airports, while Aena had provided more equipment at the facilities, with extra staff to inform and assist passengers before going through passport control.

The spokesman said Palma de Mallorca airport had hired seven extra staff at arrivals and three for departures. He said it had also opened two more counters in departures, bringing the total to five, and one more at arrivals, bring the total to three.

Aéroports de Paris plans to install 87 automatic passport reading machines at Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports but has been held up by delays at the interior ministry which has yet to approve facial recognition.

Last month Marc Rochet, the president of Air Caraïbes, lambasted Orly-Sud for the waiting time at passport control, saying delays had exceeded 60 minutes every day since mid-June, causing “numerous public order problems” with angry passengers.

“In this summer period with heavy traffic, the situation has reached a critical level … with 320 hours of delays [at passport control] for international flights leaving Orly airport’s southern terminal,” Rochet said, adding that passenger frustrations had led to “near riot” situations.

PNC Contact, a French forum for airline stewards, said the situation at Orly was “from another era” or reminiscent of “queues in Soviet shops during the height of communism”. France “shows a very negative face as soon as tourists get off their plane”, it said in a report.

The interior ministry said 100 more border control staff would be on duty at both the French capital’s main airports, with new passport verification systems expected to “significantly reduce delays” from the end of July.

Passengers have aired their grievances over passport control queues on Twitter from destinations across Europe. “Schiphol, is this the norm at your international airport?? Random blocks halfway to the baggage hall?” tweeted one user.

One passenger, Andy Bryant, reported:

Andy Bryant

Huge slow snaking queues to get thru passport control before flying from @lyonaeroports. Never seen it this bad. Leave min 2 hours.

July 22, 2017

While the ITV news journalist and presenter Alastair Stewart wrote:

Alastair Stewart

Toulouse airport: definitely not ‘Jeux sans frontieres’ – more ‘Frontieres sans jeux’… bonkers queues at passport control…

July 23, 2017

A spokeswoman for the travel agency and tour operator association Abta said: “New, stricter passport checks are resulting in longer queues at some airports, including Palma, which is already busy due to a significant increase in passenger numbers.

“Tour operators will ensure that customers get to the airport in plenty of time. However, independent travellers will need to check with their airlines and, where necessary, ensure they factor these longer queuing times into their travel plans when flying in and out of the airport.”

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Donald Tusk echoes John Lennon to suggest UK could stay in EU | Politics

Donald Tusk used the first EU summit since the general election and the start of the Brexit negotiations to suggest that there is a chance the UK could still remain a member of the union, as leaders called on Theresa May to provide clarity on her minority government’s intentions.

Tusk, the president of the European council quoted the lyrics of John Lennon’s Imagine in expressing his hope that Britain could change its mind given recent events. “We can hear different predictions, coming from different people, about the possible outcome of these negotiations: hard Brexit, soft Brexit or no deal,” Tusk said, of what he described as a difficult process.

“Some of my British friends have even asked me whether Brexit could be reversed, and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the EU.

“I told them that in fact the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve. So, who knows? You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one.”

Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland – who as a student was active in the fight against the communist regime in his country, said: “Politics without dreams: it would be a nightmare. If you had my experience from my part of Europe you would know miracles do happen. Some of my political dreams have come true. And this is maybe the best part of politics that everything is possible but I am at the same time a realist.

“That is why first of all we should start the negotiations as effectively as possible. The final decision is also a decision for Britain, UK citizens. But, yes, dreams are still very nice.”

The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said he was hopeful that the UK would seek a soft Brexit. “It is crucially important we know what Britain wants from Brexit,” he said. “I hope we’ll come to some form of continued membership or relationship with internal markets.

“I absolutely believe the UK will be hit in the economy and the pound very hard. It will have a huge economic impact. I hope they can stay connected to the customs union which means accepting the four freedoms and the court in Luxembourg. I’m hopeful, but it all depends on what Theresa May and her team decide.”

Ireland’s new taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “The door remains open for the UK to stay in the European Union.”

A No 10 spokesman said in response: “Britain voted to leave the EU on 23 June last year and, as we have been clear all along, we will be delivering the democratic will of the British people.”

Macron, Merkel and May

Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Theresa May at the European Union leaders’ summit. Photograph: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

Leaders struck a different note when asked if European cooperation would be easier if the UK remained in the EU.

“I am not a dreamer and I am not the only one,” Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel said, in a deliberate echo of Tusk’s words. “I consider that we have to respect the choice of the UK and we will see how it is possible to keep smart cooperation on the different issues, on development, on trade but also on security.”

There were signs of irritation at Britain’s apparent intention to use meetings of EU leaders to progress their Brexit goals, however. In response to Downing Street’s decision to provide an overview of its offer on EU citizens over dinner at the summit, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: “I’m not negotiating here.”

Tusk added: “It must be clear that the European council is not a forum for the Brexit negotiations, We have our negotiations for this. And so leaders will only take note of this intention.”

Beyond the discussion on Brexit during the first day of a two-day summit, the leaders also agreed on measures regarding counter-terrorism and defence. Tusk said the leaders were now calling on social media companies to do “whatever is necessary to prevent the spread of terrorist material on the internet”.

Brexit atom

He said: “In practice, this means developing new tools to detect and remove such materials automatically. And, if need be, we are also ready to adopt relevant legislation.”

The leaders also agreed on the need to set up permanent European cooperation on defence, a concept first raised in 1954 but opposed by a number of member states, including the UK.

Initially the member states would cooperate, with the help of EU cash, on defence research and procurement. Tusk said: “It is a historic step, because such cooperation will allow the EU to move towards deeper integration in defence. Our aim is for it to be ambitious and inclusive, so every EU country is invited to join. Within three months, member states will agree a common list of criteria and commitments, together with concrete capability projects, in order to take this cooperation off the ground.”

The EU also agreed to extend its economic sanctions against Russia over its failure to live up to the Minsk peace agreement after reports to leaders from Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.

Russian-backed fighters are accused of attacking Ukrainian forces and expanding the territory under their control.

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