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Travellers at Spain’s airports face queues and ‘chaos’ over Covid restrictions and tests

New restrictions for international trips to control the spread of the Omicron variant, combined with a lack of resources at Spanish airports, mean that travellers in Spain are facing queues and "complete chaos" ahead of the Christmas period.

Travellers at Spain's airports face queues and 'chaos' over Covid restrictions and tests
Photo:Jaime Reina/AFP

As of December 1st, it is no longer possible for unvaccinated UK tourists to visit Spain after Spanish authorities ruled that a negative Covid test no longer serves as a replacement for a vaccine pass.

KEY POINTS: What are the new Covid travel rules between Spain and the UK?

The new restrictions come as long queues have already been making things difficult in Madrid, where last month 5,000 travellers missed their flights due to long waits at passport control.

“Complete chaos at Barajas airport due to lack of foresight from Aena (Spain’s airport operations company),” journalist Francisco Carrión wrote on Twitter. “Right now these are the queues for passport control in Terminal 1. The national police refuses to take responsibility and blames Aena.”

The regional government of Madrid led by Isabel Díaz Ayuso requested the deployment of more border officials to ease the flow of passengers at the city’s airport.

But now the problem seems to be extending to airports all over Spain, as fears over the Omicron variant have led governments to implement new travel restrictions.

“The delays that are occurring now at Madrid and Barcelona airports may worsen in the Christmas season, particularly in airports with the largest number of passengers from non-Schengen countries, and the airports of the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands, Alicante and Málaga,” the UNAV and FETAVE travel agency groups said.

In Madrid, passengers should continue to expect 45-minute queues at passport control due to a lack of personnel, the agencies said.

The agency groups specifically expressed concern for people travelling between Spain and the United Kingdom. Particularly since British travellers represent around 25% of all international passengers passing through Spanish airports.

The hotel group Ashotel also warned that new rules approved by Spain’s Interior Ministry on November 26th were resulting in cancellations from British travellers, due to the vaccination status of British children between the ages of 12 and 17.

READ ALSO: What are the new rules for international travel to and from Spain this Christmas?

From December 1st, all British citizens over the age of 12 must show proof of full vaccination (at least 14 days must have passed since the second dose), in order to enter Spain. But very few British teenagers have had an opportunity to get both doses of the vaccine. 

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Spain has third most powerful passport in the world

Those with Spanish citizenship are in luck because their passports are the third most powerful in the world, meaning they can travel to many different countries without the need for a visa.

Spain has third most powerful passport in the world

If you want to go on a last-minute break, it’s really only possible to countries that don’t require you to apply for a visa beforehand or issue you with a visa upon arrival. 

The Henley Passport Index is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and each year it reveals the number of destinations that passport holders from around the world can access without a prior visa.

The index includes 199 different passports and 227 different travel destinations and offers all kinds of information on global mobility, ultimately revealing which passports are the most powerful. 

Each country is scored on the total number of destinations that a holder of its passport can access without a visa. For each travel destination, if a visa is not required, they receive a score of one. This also applies if holders are able to obtain a visa on arrival, visitor permit or electronic travel authorisation (ETA) upon entry.

The rankings for 2023 show that Spain, along with Germany, is in joint third place, meaning that Spanish passport holders can visit a total of 191 countries without needing a visa.

READ ALSO: Why Spain is second favourite country for Americans to move to

In joint first place are Japan and Singapore whose passport holders can visit a total of 193 countries without requiring a visa.

They are closely followed by South Korea in second place, whose passport holders can visit a total of 192 countries.

After Spain and Germany, there are several European countries on the list. Those from Finland, Italy and Luxembourg come in fourth place, able to visit 189 destinations, while those from Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden come in fifth place able to visit 188 destinations.

These are followed by passports from France, Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom in sixth place, allowing them to visit 188 countries without a visa.

According to the rankings, only 17 percent of countries give their passport holders access to more than 80 percent of the world without a visa.

The three countries with the least powerful passports are Afghanistan whose holders can only visit 27 countries without the need for a visa, Iraq with a score of 29 and Syria with a score of 30.

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