Summer is the most popular season for travel to Europe, but 2017 saw major delays, which led to extra long lines and missed flights. According to Europe’s largest airline lobby group, this was because of stricter Schengen area border controls. Thousands of people were affected, mostly those traveling from Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy, thanks to the new passport controls.
The “new” regulations, passed in April of 2017, required every passport passing through the Schengen area – or, the “frontier-free” zone, which includes most EU countries – to be electronically compared against the “Schengen Information System.” The passports are also now compared against Interpol’s list of stolen and lost travel documents, because of terror attacks that had taken place previously. The result is passport processing time going from taking only minutes to taking hours. Summer of 2017 saw a record-breaking number of missed flights and long delays thanks to these changes. This year, airlines are urging Europe to take drastic measures so that these problems don’t occur for the 2018 summer peak season as well.
Those that were most highly affected last year were:
- Palma Airport, Majorca
- Malaga, Spain
- Paris-Orly, France
- Lyon, France
- Brussels, Belgium
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Milan Malpensa and Bergamo, Italy
If history is to repeat itself, you might want to take extra precaution when booking your flights in and out of these countries and allow a lot of time between flights. You could do that or try and find a way around using these airports at all, until there’s a new plan in place.
Since summer is peak season for holiday travel in and out of Europe, it can also be helpful to know the top ten busiest airports for summer holidays. Those are as follows:
- Antalya, Turkey
- Palma, Mallorca, Spain
- Malaga, Spain
- Izmir, Turkey
- Nice, France
- Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain
- Alicante, Spain
- Tenerife South, Spain
- Catania, Italy
- Faro, Portugal
Changes & What to Expect for 2018
The biggest reason that these changes caused such a raucous is because airlines were understaffed and didn’t have the proper resources to keep up with the increased demand during peak season while also implementing the new procedures. This year, they are being urged to take the 2017 summer season as a lesson and avoid the chaos (at least as much as possible) this year.
The trade body, which includes about 30 different airlines, met for its second annual summit this month to discuss how much the punctuality of flights was affected last year after the new regulations were put into effect. With passenger numbers expected to continue growing, the urgent need for improvement was addressed. The idea is to greatly increase on-hand staff and also automation in order to better streamline the process.
According to Thomas Reynaert, managing director of A4E, “the number of delays caused by air traffic control was also rising faster than the rise in the number of flights. A total of 25,500 flights were delayed in 2017 due to air traffic-related issues, up from 23,870 in 2016.” The hope is that this year, for the 2018 peak season, Europe will have everything reorganized and under control.
Busy Months & Refunds
The busiest month of the summer for flights to and from EU is August. If you are planning a summer trip to Europe, keep an eye out on how this story develops. If it doesn’t appear to be coming together quite as nicely as is hoped, at least try and avoid traveling that way in August. If it can’t be avoided, well, take precaution by expecting to spend several hours at the airports.
On the brighter side, there are ways for you to be reimbursed if you do miss flights because of the lag caused by the new enforcement of security regulations. The European Union requires airlines to offer you either a full refund of the unused part of your ticket or to re-route you to your destination, as soon as possible. It might also allow you to rebook your flights for a later date without charging you anything extra.
As an extra precaution, you can check with your airline before your trip to find out if there have been delays. You can also find out if your airline is suggesting that travelers give themselves plenty of time to get through border control between flights. They’ll be sure to let you know if this is a necessary precaution so that you can plan accordingly. Likewise, if you’re traveling with a tour operator, that person should be well-acquainted with the situation and how to handle it.