Tourism may encounter an air collapse at the gates of what is expected to be a record summer in traveler arrivals, that of recovery after two years of pandemic. For weeks, problems have already been detected at some airports due to lack of personnel, as is the case in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, two of the main air connection points. In Spain the problem is in border controls, due to lack of police. 80% of international tourists who visit us arrive by plane, which gives an idea of ​​the problem.

Some airlines, especially British, have had to cancel hundreds of flights in recent months due to not having enough staff to operate them. Last week some of the main European airports, Heathrow, in London, and Amsterdam Schiphol, the third with the most international traffic in the world, suffered significant delays and even flight cancellations. In the second, the shortage of personnel is such that the flag carrier, KLM, had to suspend the sale of tickets for outbound flights as it could not guarantee the services.

In Spain the problem is in the controls. The Association of Airlines, ALA, which brings together more than 80 operating airlines, has been warning for months of the need to increase the number of border controls, to facilitate flows. The rapid recovery of international tourism in the last two months, together with the fact that this is the first post-Brexit summer, is causing these filters to collapse. British tourists now have to go through passport control, something they didn’t have to do before the pandemic.

This Monday Iberia has denounced “the chaos” in the passport control area of ​​the Barajas T4 terminal, forcing the departure of some of its flights to be delayed. Specifically, those going to Buenos Aires, Chicago and Miami have taken off late, having to wait for passengers who were trapped at police checkpoints.

According to Iberia, about 15,000 passengers have lost their connection since March 1, due to crowds in the police control area. ALA already denounced in December that more than 5,000 people had lost their flight in the last month due to delays in border controls in Barajas. At Easter it affected 3,000 passengers. In addition to the Madrid airport, which is the one with the most traffic, they also report problems in other very touristy ones such as Malaga, Alicante, Malaga, Seville, Ibiza, Tenerife Sur or Seville.

Interior sources “categorically deny that there are queues or significant delays in passport controls at Spanish airports, some police filters that are dimensioned with respect to the flow of passengers, and that are reinforced whenever necessary. This was the case Easter, with reinforcements of specific personnel from the General Immigration and Borders Police Station, especially in the templates in El Prat or Barajas”.

They point out that “in the summer, traditional reinforcements will be launched, as usual, with more than 200 additional troops, for example, at the Madrid airport.”

Passport control depends on the Ministry of the Interior, to which ALA has already sent several letters to denounce the problem. ALA says that the airport manager AENA has increased its workforce, as has Enaire, which already has more air traffic controllers than before the pandemic.

Nearly half a thousand flights to and from the United Kingdom were canceled during the four days of the jubilee bridge, leaving thousands of tourists stranded in Spain and other classic European destinations. The air chaos lasted for more than ten days and coincided with the festive week of the spring school term, which families settled in the country take advantage of to travel abroad with their children.

Some 15,000 people were left on the ground on Sunday, unable to resume work or go to class on Monday. EasyJet canceled 37 additional flights this Monday. Other airlines – from Vueling to British Airways or Wizz Air – suspended part of their itineraries with little prior notice and after passengers waited long hours in British and European Union airports, as those affected complained on radio programs and in social networks.

The congestion is mainly attributed to the lack of personnel in the aviation industry. Boris Johnson’s unstable government is resisting liberalizing post-Brexit immigration laws to allow airlines to hire European Union nationals without official UK residence. Thus, the Minister of Transport, Grant Shapps, blamed the chaos on the sector that, according to him, “oversold flights and holidays”. In turn, the airlines reproach the limited help provided by the government to deal with the travel paralysis forced by covid-19.

Analysts project the continuation of the crisis until after the start of the strong summer season, from the end of July. Meanwhile, Heathrow announced plans to hire a thousand employees in the short term and the reopening of its Terminal 4 on June 14. The main London airport has been on the verge of collapse, both in the terminals and in the car parks, in recent days.

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