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Security delays at Barcelona airport damaging city’s tourism brand

Hotels and airlines call for central government to intervene as busy summer season approaches

Extra security measures at Barcelona’s El Prat airport that have forced passengers to wait up to three hours at passport control in recent weeks are damaging the city’s tourism brand, says its hotel confederation, prompting it to write to Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido, and the regional government of Catalonia’s interior chief, Jordi Jané, to call for action.

Colas en el control de pasaportes del Prat.
Colas en el control de pasaportes del Prat.

Social networks and European media have widely reported the delays at Barcelona airport, which have led to many passengers missing their flights, with notable problems over the Easter period, when the new, stricter security measures were introduced. Several international airlines have also complained to AENA, Spain’s airport authority.

Barcelona’s tourism sector had expected some initial repercussions due to the anti-terrorist measures, but hoteliers say that this past weekend once again produced long lines of angry passengers at passport control.

This is absolutely grotesque. They knew these measures were to be put in place

Joan Molas, the head of Barcelona’s hotel association

Spain’s National Police say that the delays are likely to continue due to the lack of officers. El Prat has called in extra police from Barcelona to try to meet the shortfall.

“This is absolutely grotesque,” said Joan Molas, the head of Barcelona’s hotel association. “They have known for a long time that these measures were going to have to be put in place. We don’t understand why they are now telling us that they lack human resources or the technology. We are very surprised,” said Molas, calling for “immediate solutions.”

On Wednesday, the central government’s delegate to Catalonia, Enric Millo, was due to meet with representatives of the Catalan regional government, along with Sonia Carrochano, El Prat’s director, Barcelona’s deputy mayor, Jaume Collboni, the mayor of El Prat, Lluís Tejedor, and the head of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Miquel Valls.

Airlines operating out of Barcelona have also expressed concern about the delays ahead of summer, when traveler numbers increase significantly. Two operators, Norwegian and Level, are due to begin low-cost intercontinental flights out of El Prat in the coming months. Some airlines have begun notifying passengers by email to allow for more time at passport control.

The delays create a chain reaction affecting travel agencies, hotels, and even drivers hired to pick arrivals up

Similarly, travel agents are now warning customers about the delays they will face at Barcelona airport.

“We have had people who have missed their outward and return flights. What’s more, many flights carry passengers boarding cruise ships that leave Barcelona,” said Martí Sarrate, the president of the Catalan Association of Specialist Tour Agencies (ACAVE).

The delays at the airport create a chain reaction affecting travel agencies, hotels, tourist apartments and even drivers hired to pick arrivals up.

“It’s a disaster. We’re calling for the necessary investments to be made to sort this out,” said Manel Casals, the head of the Barcelona hotels association, and who has already met with senior members of the Catalan regional government.

“We think that this is all due to a lack of planning,” he said.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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