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New Spanish security rules likely to cause airport delays

22.05.07

Passengers flying to Spain face long airport delays because of a new security regime. They will have to provide extra information from next month, as the Spanish government moves to introduce US-style entry procedures.

Under new regulations to be introduced on June 13 - at the start of peak holiday time - all British visitors entering Spain will have to submit Advance Passenger Information (API), which includes full names, nationality, travel document details (passport number) of every passenger, including children. The system is similar to that introduced for travellers to the US in 2004, which resulted in long delays on both sides of the Atlantic.

The new rule, issued by the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, will apply only to countries that are not signed up to the Schengen treaty, an agreement which allows free travel, without presentation of a passport, between the 15 European countries that are members. The UK is not a member of this scheme.

Airlines failing to supply API face fines of £40,000 per passenger. About half of check-in desks have barcode-scanning systems which can read the details from a passport, but experts are predicting an airport meltdown as the 12 million Britons who fly to Spain every year struggle to fill in lengthy forms.

A spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said: 'Spain announced it was bringing in API in March - hardly enough time to get all the new technology in place - and a year before other European countries. It comes at the start of the peak season - the timing could not be worse. It is inevitable that we will have longer check-in times.

'We can't see why Spain would want to alienate British tourists in this way. During the peak periods of July and August, we may have to tell people to turn up at airports earlier than normal.' ABTA said several appeals to the Spanish authorities asking for the introduction to be delayed had been rejected.

An easyJet spokesman said that it is still undecided on how to collect the information from passengers, adding: 'We are aware of the change in requirements and are working with the Spanish authorities to achieve compliance as soon as possible.'

British Airways has adapted its website to allow passengers to enter the information using the 'Manage my Booking' facility on www.ba.com and will prompt passengers to enter their details at the time of booking. It says passengers can also give the information to check-in staff at the airport, although the airline warns this could spark delays.

A spokesman for Ryanair said: 'We are likely to get people to complete a form online before they come to the airport via our website.' However, the airlines run by the big holiday companies such as MyTravel, Thomas Cook, Thomson and First Choice do not have this facility.

Whilst Spain is the first European country to require the collection of API for visitors, the policy will be introduced in other member countries over the next 12 months.

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