Pictured: Passport queues at Palma airport
Ministers yesterday vowed to take their foreign counterparts to task as anger grew over the shambles at European airports.
The move came as it emerged passengers would not be compensated for missing flights if the lengthy waits for passport checks made them late.
EU regulations that force airlines to pay compensation for delayed or cancelled flights do not apply if the carriers are not directly responsible.
With passport control reportedly taking up to ten minutes to vet each passenger, airlines have accused officials of failing to recruit enough staff or install more kiosks in light of strict new vetting rules.
Amid fears delays will erupt again this weekend, aviation minister Lord Callanan said he understood the ‘frustration’ caused and promised to hold urgent talks with Portugal, Spain and Italy.
Queues of up to four hours have been reported at EU airports following the bungled introduction of tougher security checks for those travelling into Europe’s Schengen zone.
Lord Callanan said he would urge his counterparts to ‘do all they can to reduce queues and allow travellers to get on with their holidays’.
Queues of up to four hours have been reported at EU airports following the bungled introduction of tougher security checks for those travelling into Europe’s Schengen zone
The regulations were first proposed following the Paris terror attacks in 2015 but passengers have complained there are not enough staff or ePassport gates to cope.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary slammed new passport controls and blamed it on an increase in the number of delayed flights. Mr O’Leary said he was ‘jumping up and down’ in frustration at the disruption caused by passengers stuck in queues leaving the Schengen area.
He added: ‘If people are leaving your country, what is the problem?
‘You’re at the peak of the travel period, the UK school holidays. Why you’re going through outbound passport control in any European country is a mystery to me.’ Last night, ministers were accused of ignoring warnings over the passport chaos.
Airlines UK, the industry body, said it had written to the Department of Transport in May warning ministers over the problems.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said he wrote to the then aviation minister Lord Ahmad in the wake of similar problems over Easter.
However in June, Transport ministers said they were ‘encouraged’ the situation had calmed down and no action was taken. Phil Davis, whose flight home from Frankfurt yesterday was delayed by 90 minutes, said the airport only had one security lane open to process a large number of international flights.
Tory MP Huw Merriman said: ‘It’s a ludicrous state of affairs when fellow EU members cannot distinguish the UK from other non-Schengen countries.
‘We are an EU member, and an island, after all, and have not given free access to the migrants which mainland EU has.
‘I would have thought we would be welcomed as the safest of nations.’
The new rules, which must be rolled out across the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone by October 7, mean passenger details of non-members are run through a database to alert authorities if they are known to pose a threat.
Airlines UK revealed on Tuesday it had urged the Government to use ‘whatever influence it can’ to pressure EU states to adequately staff their airports in light of the tough new measures.
This appears to have had the desired effect, with Lord Callanan saying in a statement yesterday: ‘Clearly it is right that other EU countries have appropriate border controls, but it is also in everyone’s interests that tourists are able to start their holidays and spend money across Europe.’