domingo, 6 de agosto de 2017

Air travellers in Europe delayed by security checks and strikes

Aeroporto de barcelona El Prat
“A Organização Mundial do Turismo (OMT), com sede em Madrid, já alertou para a necessidade de regulamentar uma atividade que, segundo as suas próprias estatísticas, subiu de 25 milhões de viagens em 1950 para 536 milhões em 1995 e 1235 milhões no ano passado. O fenómeno da massificação turística, que pode alimentar a turismofobia, começa a ser considerado preocupante pelos sectores mais sensibilizados.”

Air travellers in Europe delayed by security checks and strikes
New rules demand entry and exit checks on non-Schengen passengers, with Barcelona’s El Prat airport particularly busy

Ben Quinn
Saturday 5 August 2017 12.14 BST Last modified on Saturday 5 August 2017 13.14 BST

Soaring temperatures, new security checks and the resumption of industrial action at one of Europe’s busiest airports are challenging passengers on one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Travellers in many cities were taking heed of advice to arrive early on Saturday in order to allow extra time to pass through security following the introduction in March of European Union 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 border-free Schengen zone.

Delays have been particularly bad at Barcelona’s El Prat airport, where passengers missed flights on Friday as security workers checking carry-on luggage began partial strikes at the beginning of one of Spain’s peak summer holiday weekends.

There were no strikes on Saturday, but passengers were still reporting long waits. Luke Hansell, who was travelling to Birmingham with his mother, said they had been prompted by news reports to arrive four hours before their morning flight.

He said: “The queue for security was around 90 minutes to pass. It was functioning but seemed like there wasn’t many staff. There were far more manning the security at Birmingham airport for example.”

His experience of passport control was better than expected though, with little sign that the new checks were causing staff to take longer when checking documentation.

Robert Emerson, another passenger, said the airport was a mess, with many disgruntled passengers and few or no staff. He had barely reached the departure gate before a 10.30am boarding time following his arrival shortly after 8am, and the aircraft was then left sitting on the runway for an hour due to overbooking, with no passengers willing to get off.

After the failure of mediation on Friday evening, the series of hour-long strikes by staff who operate scanners, search passengers and control the queues at the airport will resume on Sunday. Others are scheduled for Monday, Friday and next Sunday.

A spokesperson for the travel trade organisation, Abta, said its members on the ground had yet to report travellers being adversely impacted by the new security checks, but it was still advising travellers to leave extra time when departing from Schengen countries.

“People should also bear in mind that this is a particularly busy weekend and we have record numbers of Britons who are out in Europe at the moment,” she said. “People do need to factor in time. If they are concerned, then they should speak to their airlines. Certain ones will open check-ins three hours before but at some airports they will only open them two hours beforehand, for example.”

In the UK, the Home Office announced that the process of filling in a landing card before arriving in the country will be scrapped for more than 16 million non-EU travellers.

The paper-based system was described as outdated by officials and will be replaced with a digital system. It is hoped the new process will help speed passengers through airports upon arrival while ensuring that security and immigration checks continue to be performed.

Non-European travellers have been required to fill out a landing card with basic information about themselves and their travel since 1971, a process which costs £3.6m a year.

This weekend also marks the start of three weeks of disruption on Britain’s railway network. Major stations in London, as well as services in Wales and in the north of England, are due to be affected by engineering work.

An £800m revamp to increase the capacity of Britain’s busiest station, Waterloo in London, is already under way and will result in fewer trains running from this weekend until 28 August. Services in south Wales and in England’s north-west and Midlands are also expected to feel the impact of engineering works this month.

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