In a statement issued on Monday afternoon, the Spanish government announced its decision to restrict flights from the UK.
— Spain MFA (@SpainMFA) December 21, 2020
Flights were restricted from Tuesday, December 22nd with only Spanish citizens and those resident in Spain allowed to board a plane fly back to Spain.
The UK's FCDO published in their advice that the restrictions on flights would begin at 6pm (Spanish time) on Tuesday December 22nd.
This inevitably means dozens of flight cancellations but it appears there are still a limited number of flights operating for those who meet residency requirements and passengers should be alerted by their airlines as to whether their flight is cancelled and offered alternatives.
Due to latest restrictions, we are making managing flights as easy as possible and have currently removed the change fee for flight transfers online via Manage my bookings. We strongly recommend customers self-serve online, due to the volume of calls currently.
— easyJet (@easyJet) December 21, 2020
Charter flights for package holidays at Spanish destinations have been cancelled although those currently on holiday in Spain have been told to continue with their holiday and return as planned – although be advised there may be delays and cancellations to their return flights.
Arrivals boards at Spanish airports showed flights from various UK destinations were scheduled to land on Tuesday.
Passengers arriving in Spanish airports are already required to have taken a PCR or LAMP test or equivalent within 72 hours prior to arrival and Spanish authorities confirmed they would be stepping up those checks on flights from the UK.
So for those trying to reach Spain, how do you prove residency?
It’s easy enough if you have a Spanish passport and are returning to your country over Christmas but for those with British (or other passports) travelling from UK airports to anywhere Spain you must show other proof.
You can prove residency in Spain by presenting your TIE card (the new biometric cards issued to British residents in Spain since July) or either of the green certificates (A4 size or credit card size) that show you are a resident in Spain as well as a valid passport when you travel.
But for those who are in the process of applying for residency but have not yet received the actual document, it becomes a bit more vague.
The FCDO travel advice for Spain issued by the UK government states: “If you have applied but not yet received your document, carry proof you have started the registration process.”
But it was unclear exactly what documents would be accept as proof of starting the process. Does this mean you qualify if you can prove you have successfully secured a rare appointment at the comisaria or extranjeria (Police HQ or Foreigners’ Office) to apply for residency?
Or do you have to have already had your residency application accepted even though you may not be in receipt of the document itself? In which case is a screenshot of the page showing approval sufficient? Or must it be the stamped letter from the comisaria providing a date for collection?
Back in March when Spain's borders locked down and only those citizens or residents in Spain were allowed into the country, it was reported that people were turned away unless they could show the original documents rather than a photocopy (green certificates A4 sized or credit card sized certificates).
The UK authorities are clear about what was NOT accepted as proof:
It warned that “padron certificates, utility bills and property deeds will not be accepted by Spanish authorities as proof of residency.”
Individual airlines have confirmed that passengers from the UK who are transiting through Spain to a third country will be allowed to make the journey as long as there are no restrictions imposed by their final destination country on travellers from the UK.
Hello Lara, at the moment if you have a connection and you will stay at the airport in principle you can continue your flight to Costa Rica, please check all the insurances and the guidelines to enter the country with their authorities. Regards.
— Iberia_en (@Iberia_en) December 22, 2020
Hello Fer, The authorities in the country you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. And is also the passengers responsibility to fulfill their requirements If you’re unclear about any aspect you’ll need to contact them directly. Regards
— Iberia_en (@Iberia_en) December 22, 2020
Other questions that were raised were for couples or families travelling to Spain from the UK when one had a Spanish citizenship but the others did not.
My husband is a Spanish national and we have a daughter. Me and our daughter have UK passports and my husband has a Spanish passport. We live in the UK but are due to fly to Spain 26th Dec. We have legally permitted reasons to be travelling. Will we be allowed to fly?
— Rebecca Garcia (was Lane) (@BexLL) December 21, 2020
And from those who were poised to move to Spain and had either employment contracts or signed a lease on a property but had not started the residency process.
I was due to move there to teach this Thursday, will I be exempt? I have a flat in Madrid and will be starting work in January. I can’t get my NIE until I’m there this week.
— MollyMoo1707 (@moo1707) December 21, 2020
It is also as yet unclear how stringent individual airlines are in checking passengers residency status ahead of boarding and what exact guidelines they have been given or whether the checks would be made on arrival in Spain itself but there are already reports of passengers being denied boarding because they couldn't prove residency.
My son arrived in Alicante this morning, he said fully a third of the passengers were denied boarding as either unable to prove residency or didn’t have QR code on phone to show negative test results, he is currently on train back to BCN for TIE appointment tomorrow ?
— Jane Darroch Riley (@jdarrochriley) December 22, 2020
The details will hopefully made clearer when Spain's government publishes the regulations in the Official State Gazette (BOE) a measure which is expected to happen later on Wednesday.
If you have travelled from the UK to the Spain since the new restrictions were brought in, tell us about it! Email [email protected] and share your experience.