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TRAVEL: Spain to allow unvaccinated UK teens to enter with PCR

The Spanish government on Thursday decided it will change its travel rules to allow unvaccinated 12 to 18 year olds from the United Kingdom to enter the country if they present a negative PCR test. 

SPAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS-TOURISM-AIRPORT
The announcement by the Spanish government follows calls by regional governments and tourism groups to make an exception for British teens, as the rule was causing thousands of holiday cancellations by British families. Photo: Desiree Martin/AFP

British holidaymakers will be able to travel to Spain with their children aged 12 to 18, even if they are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

The changes to Spain’s travel rules for young UK nationals were published on Friday in the country’s official state bulletin BOE, following negotiations between Spain’s Ministries of Health, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Industry, Commerce and Tourism.

Spanish authorities previously required Britons over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to be able to visit Spain, a rule that’s been in place for all of 2021 for most non-EU/EEA nationals and since December 2021 for UK nationals who don’t reside in Spain.

But from Monday February 14th 2022, unvaccinated non-resident minors aged 12 to 17 (who haven’t turned 18 yet) travelling from the UK will be able to visit Spain if they present a negative PCR or other NAAT test taken within 72 hours before arrival in Spain. 

The announcement by Spanish authorities comes after weeks of appeals by some regional governments and business groups, who argued the vaccination rule for teens was causing thousands of holiday cancellations, especially among British families, thus having a negative impact on the country’s already struggling tourism industry. 

The Spanish government has decided to make just the exception for UK teen holidaymakers rather than all non-EU/EEA nationals, perhaps given that in pre-pandemic times they were by far Spain’s main tourism market (18 million Brits visited the country in 2019). 

Although the UK has had a somewhat successful vaccination rollout overall, only one in ten British children were legally able to enter Spain for tourism purposes since the rule came into force for them last December. Around 300,000 – roughly 12 percent – of 12 to 15-year-olds in the UK have received two doses.

The rule that still remains in place is that all adult UK nationals who don’t reside in Spain must be fully vaccinated to visit Spain for non-essential reasons such as tourism. There are only a handful of non-EU/EEA countries that are exempt from this rule given their favourable epidemiological situation.

British children under the age of 12 will also continue to be exempt from Spain’s vaccination and testing rules for travel. 

The BOE does not mention British 12 to 18 year olds specifically, but instead refers to section “K” of the Spanish Health Ministry’s guidelines for third countries, in which UK nationals are mentioned but there is no word yet on the new rule for teenage travellers. 

This confusing situation has led to different interpretations of the new rule in the Spanish press, with some suggesting the exemption applies to all non-EU/EEA teens and others just British 12 to 18 year olds. 

On Friday morning, The Local Spain contacted Spain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry for clarification, with a representative confirming that the new rules applies to all non-EU/Schengen 12 to 18 year olds, not just British ones. 

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Spain’s summer strike calendar: The days you might want to avoid flying

Following the announcement that Ryanair and EasyJet staff have added further strike days in July 2022, we list the dates that travellers looking to fly to and from Spain may want to avoid booking tickets for.

Spain's summer strike calendar: The days you might want to avoid flying

Strike action by Spain-based cabin crew working for Ryanair and EasyJet will continue throughout the month of July, unions representing staff for Europe’s two biggest low-cost airlines have confirmed.

EasyJet’s strike days in July will continue as initially announced on June 21st.

In Ryanair’s case, the six-day stoppage was meant to come to an end on Saturday July 2nd, but a further 12 days of strikes have been added throughout the month of July due to the failure to reach an agreement over cabin crew’s low pay and work conditions. 

“After six days of strike and in view of the unwillingness of the company to listen to its staff and its preference for leaving thousands of passengers grounded rather than sitting down to negotiate an agreement under Spanish law, we have been forced to call new strike days,” USO unionist Lidia Arasanz said with regard to the 1,900 Ryanair employees they represent.

So far, the stoppages by Ryanair and Easyjet staff have not meant that absolutely all their flights to and from Spain have been cancelled, but dozens of scheduled flights have indeed not taken off and hundreds more have suffered delays on these previous strike days. 

Minimum services have been provided for flights within the Spanish mainland and to and from the Canary and Balearic Islands, especially those leaving from Madrid, Málaga, Barcelona, ​​Alicante, Seville, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, Girona, Santiago de Compostela and Ibiza airports.

A Ryanair cabin crew member holds a placard reading “Ryanair, low salaries made simple” as she protests at Terminal 2 of El Prat airport in Barcelona on June 24, 2022. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

For international flights the situation is more complicated, especially for Ryanair passengers with scheduled flights from Belgium, Italy, France and Portugal, as the low-cost airline’s cabin crew in those countries have also joined the strikes.

Even though UK-based Ryanair and EasyJet staff are not on strike, the sheer number of flights between Spain and the UK has meant that thousands of British holidaymakers have already been affected.

Málaga, Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca’s airports have reportedly been the most affected by Ryanair and EasyJet flight cancellations thus far.

READ ALSO: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

Many EasyJet and Ryanair passengers who have already booked flights to and from Spain for July will no doubt want to know with plenty of notice if their flight will be cancelled, something that is not possible to know in most cases until the airline emails or texts them.

Ryanair’s management has said it expects “minimal (if any) disruption to its flight schedules in July as a result of minor and poorly- supported Spanish labour strikes”, although if what’s happened over the course of late June and early July is anything to go by, that won’t necessarily be the case.

The Irish carrier did acknowledge that “air traffic control strikes and airport staff shortages across Europe (which are beyond Ryanair’s control) may however cause some minor disruption and passengers whose flights are disrupted will be notified by email/SMS”.

It is possible to use Ryanair’s flight tracker to check on the status of your upcoming flight, but you’re unlikely to get accurate information if done lots of days in advance.

Dozens of EasyJet flights have been cancelled so far, even though the airline’s management says it intends to operate all of them. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

EasyJet has also said it intends to operate all its scheduled flights in July, whilst acknowledging that there could be some delays and other disruptions. 

On Sunday July 3rd, eight EasyJet flights to and from Spain were cancelled and 46 were delayed.

On Tuesday July 5th, EasyJet’s chief operating officer Peter Bellew resigned, allegedly “to pursue other business opportunities”, news which certainly suggests that all is not well at the Luton-headquartered airline.

You can also use EasyJet’s flight tracker here to find out if your flight is going ahead

For those of you who have booked a Ryanair or Easyjet flight to and/or from Spain for July, or those who are considering doing so, the following is a breakdown of all the scheduled strike days by cabin crew for both airlines for the coming weeks.

Ryanair strike days 

Tuesday July 12th

Wednesday July 13th

Thursday July 14th

Friday July 15th

Monday July 18th

Tuesday July 19th

Wednesday July 20th

Thursday July 21st

Monday July 25th

Tuesday July 26th

Wednesday July 27th

Thursday July 28th

Easyjet strike days

Friday July 15th

Saturday July 16th

Sunday July 17th

Friday July 29th

Saturday July 30th

Sunday July 31st

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