Extract from Telegraph.com dated 23rd May, 2007
Introduction of US-style security checks likely to increase peak-season queues at airports. Jeremy Skidmore reports.
Holidaymakers travelling to Spain this summer have been warned to brace themselves for delays at airports as a result of the introduction of new security measures.
|The introduction of new security for visits to Spain is badly timed for delaying travellers
From June 13, Spanish authorities will be asking travellers to provide detailed information about themselves before they fly to the country. Travellers to the United States have faced similar demands since early 2005.
Airlines have been told that the information needs to be supplied to Spanish customs authorities before anyone boards an aircraft, so check-in will be the last time passengers can provide the their details.
Known as Advance Passenger Information (API), the details required are the full given names, surname, nationality, date of birth and passport number of all travellers to the country. In the US, holidaymakers need to provide addresses of where they are staying, although this will not apply in Spain.
In order to reduce the likelihood of lengthy delays at check-in, airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have allowed transatlantic passengers to enter the information online. Following the foiled airline bomb plot at Heathrow, European ministers agreed last August at a summit in London to set up a pan-European system for exchanging passenger information, including iris scans and fingerprints.
Spain is the first EU country to start collecting API from incoming travellers, but the practice is expected to be introduced in other member countries within 12 months.
In March, Bob Mocny, acting director of the US-Visit programme, the body that runs American immigration security, said Europe would soon follow the US in adopting fingerprinting as a standard security measure.
Some 12 million Britons travel to Spain each year, around two thirds of them during the summer.
A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents said the introduction of API for visits to Spain was badly timed and would lead to delays at airports.
"This was announced four months ago and we said there was not enough time to warn people," said a spokesman. "With scheduled airlines, people can fill in the information online, but it is inevitable that many won't and we will have longer check-in times.
"During the peak periods of July and August, we may have to tell people to turn up at airports half an hour earlier than normal." British Airways said it was encouraging travellers to Spain to provide the information on its website, www.ba.com, before travelling, or to give the details to their travel agent.
In a statement, BA said: "At some airports, a third option of providing API via a self-service kiosk may be available. This method is not guaranteed at all airports.
Staff at check-in desks will also be able to collect API data but passengers are strongly advised to supply the information before arrival at the airport, or at a self-service kiosk where available, to avoid unnecessary delays."
Any delays are likely to hit no-frills airlines in particular as they have quick turnarounds and allow passengers to check in just 35 minutes before flights take-off. A spokeswoman for Ryanair said punctuality would not be affected.
"We are working with the Spanish authorities on this and will comply fully with the new regulations," she said. "We are working out the best way to do it and are likely to get people to complete a form online before they come to the airport. We are confident that everything will continue without delays." A spokesman for EasyJet said it would also be complying with the new regulations and did not envisage problems.