The traffic jams at the Barajas checkpoints threaten the Constitution Bridge
The recovery of international passenger traffic produced at the airport of Barajas this fall, thanks in large part to the reopening of USA, sparked a collapse in passenger passport controls that is still far from being fixed. For months, the airlines have been demanding that the Ministry of the Interior reinforce the police officers in charge of these posts; but the department headed by Fernando Grande-Marlaska it refuses and assures that “specific problems” are only occurring when several landings coincide in a short space of time. Now, after the umpteenth day of delays at the airport, from the air sector they warn that the collapse could compromise the bridge of the Constitution.
The problems are longstanding and are having a great impact on airline scheduling.
As published by ABC, the lack of personnel in these positions has caused 6,000 international passengers – both Spanish tourists traveling outside the Schengen area and international travelers from outside the EU – to lose their flight between the last three weeks of October and the first of November. According to the ALA employers’ association, between October 25 and November 25 a total of 5,000 passengers were left ashore.
The deputy director of the National Police This week has ruled out the incorporation of resources and shift changes promised to the airlines for these days, as this newspaper has learned. A decision that will delay the arrival of personnel at these airport posts for at least 15 more days. In fact, sources familiar with this situation find it difficult for the arrival of troops “occurs before Christmas”. A circumstance that, according to the airlines, will compromise operations during the bridge.
“It can be a disaster,” explain sources in the airline industry. The average waiting time at these controls has increased notably in these months, even exceeding two hours at specific times. The airlines assure that these incidents are causing a large part of the delays they suffer these days, since many planes remain stopped until all the passengers arrive. According to industry calculations, the 62% of delays occurred on Wednesday were explained by the collapse of passport controls, while on Tuesday they were responsible for 70% of delays. From Aena they assure that they are not having many claims for loss of flight, so they distrust that the number of passengers affected by these controls is so high. Even so, the airport manager also indicates that it is the Police that are managing the controls on their own.
The issue is taking on a political turn. The Community of Madrid is mobilizing to prevent the collapses in Barajas from lasting forever, and, in fact, the Minister of Culture, Tourism and Sports, Marta Rivera de la Cruz, sent a letter to the Minister of the Interior in November to demand more police at the airport checkpoints. However, the Grande-Marlaska department has not yet responded to the letter. Sources in the sector assure that the National Police in this matter has its hands tied and it is the ministry that has to give the final order to allocate more troops to the controls.
Meanwhile, the aviation sector expects this bridge to be one of the busiest periods in winter. Airlines fear the spread of Ómicron will lead to a trail of restrictions, but so far only connections to southern Africa have been limited. The sector’s employer’s association, ALA, expects that 2% more flights will be made this winter than in 2019, although it also estimates that occupancy will remain far from pre-crisis levels and will barely exceed 70%.