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How Spain’s air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans

Many of Spain’s air traffic controllers have been called to strike over the next month. Find out which dates and which airports will be affected.

How Spain's air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans
Air traffic control strikes across Spain. Photo: Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

The workers’ unions USCA and CCOO have called around 162 air traffic controllers working at privatised control towers around the country to organise walkouts throughout February, affecting 28.5 percent of all air traffic in Spain.

The walkouts began on Monday January 30th and will continue every Monday until February 27th during “all work shifts that begin between 00:00 and 24:00,” they stated. Specifically, the strike days will occur on February 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th.

The airports affected by the strike will be A Coruña, Alicante-Elche, Castellón, Cuatro Vientos (Madrid), El Hierro, Fuerteventura, Ibiza, Jerez, Lanzarote, La Palma, Lleida, Murcia, Sabadell, Seville, Valencia and Vigo.

The Ministry of Transport has set minimum services depending on the type of route, which reaches 100 percent for emergency flights, the transfer of citizens or foreigners guarded by police officers and the transport of post and perishable products.  

For commercial flights with routes originating or ending at non-peninsular airports, the minimum services range between 52 percent from Lleida to 84 percent from La Coruña, depending on the estimated occupancy.

In the case of routes between foreign or Spanish cities whose travel time by road is at least five hours, the minimum services will be between 44 percent from La Palma and 57 percent from Alicante.  

For routes that can be replaced by other means of public transport in less than five hours, the minimum guaranteed services will be between 18 percent from Castellón and 30 percent from Vigo.

The workers are asking for a 5.5 percent salary increase but the proposal offered by their employers, which is 2 percent in 2023 and 2.5 percent in 2024, is “very far from their demands”.

The USCA and CCOO unions have decided to call the stoppages due to “the failure of the negotiations” with the Business Association of Civil Air Traffic Providers of the Liberalised Market (APCTA). They finally gave up trying to find a solution after several “unfruitful” meetings.

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Is start date for EES biometric passport checks set to be delayed again?

The EU's new EES system of biometric passport checks at borders has already been repeatedly delayed, but now there are reports that it could be pushed back again amid concerns that transport terminals - especially in the UK - are not ready.

Is start date for EES biometric passport checks set to be delayed again?

After several postponements, the new EU border security system known as the Entry & Exit System (EES) is due to go live in the autumn of 2024.

The European Commission has never officially confirmed the exact start date, but information sent to airports and other transport terminals indicated Sunday, October 6th as the likely start date.

However, now the British newspaper The Independent has reported that it has been delayed again, albeit only for a few weeks, with the likely new start date Sunday, November 10th.

At the time of writing the Commission has not released a firm start date, but The Local has requested further clarification.

The Independent also reports that the EU is considering allowing a ‘soft launch’ which will allow transport operators to be excused from collecting full biometric data on all travellers if there are significant delays at a border crossing point. The Local has asked the Commission for clarification on this point.

The system is causing a major headache for ports and rail terminals in the UK, with fears of long tailbacks at entry points such as the Port of Dover or the Eurostar St Pancras terminal. 

The problems are particularly acute at the UK-France border because of high travel volumes, the juxtaposed borders and the fact that Brits are no longer EU citizens and are therefore subject to EES checks.

READ ALSO Why is the UK-France border such a problem for EES checks? 

The EES system was designed prior to Brexit, when UK travellers were still EU citizens and would therefore not have been required to complete EES pre-registration.

You can read more about exactly how EES will affect different modes of transport on the links below;

The first time that passengers cross an external EU/Schengen zone border after the introduction of the system they will be required to provide biometric data including facial scans and fingerprints.

These must be collected on site, and there are fears that the extra requirements will lead to long queues at border crossings.

The checks only apply to non-EU citizens, while non-EU citizens who are resident in an EU country are also exempt.

Find full details of the new system HERE.

Once EES is (finally) up and running it will be followed by another new system – ETIAS which will require tourists and short-stay visitors to the EU to pay €7 in advance and register for a visa waiver. Under 18s and over 70s are exempt from this payment – full details HERE.

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