Just days after Britain officially left the European Union, UK residents of Spain looking to return home were wrongly denied permission to board flights by British Airways amid Brexit rules confusion. With the Brexit transition period now complete, UK passport holders no longer have automatic access to the European Union.
Meanwhile, Spain – along with several other EU nations – has imposed tougher immigration and border restrictions to try and slow the spread of coronavirus – a new strain of which recently emerged in the UK.
According to current restrictions, only Spanish nationals and legal residents of Spain are permitted to board flights from the UK until 19 January. UK nationals living in Spain must be in possession of one of two documents demonstrating that they have the right to travel.
The documents include a green EU residence certificate or a tarjeta de identidad de extranjero (TIE), a new biometric residency card specifically for Spain.
Brits travelling to Spain must also have a PCR test for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival in the country. However, passengers booked on several British Airways flights claim that they were incorrectly refused boarding at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
One of the travellers, James Elliot, posted on Twitter: “I was booked on BA482 flying to Barcelona, Spain. I had all the correct documentation including UK passport, green resident’s card, negative COVID test and was turned away by the check-in manager.”
Mr Elliot said that he’d tried to explain that his green card meant he was a Spanish resident, but two BA staff reportedly told him he was wrong.
He said: “Also read out both the UK and Spanish governments websites information with no success. Absolutely shocking, seems like I’m not the only one either.”
Another traveller, Stephen Meldrum, contacted The Independent to report his experience with BA.
He was booked on BA flight 454 from Heathrow to Malaga, and told The Independent that like Mr Elliot, he had all the correct documentation, but was informed that only Spanish passport holders were allowed to board.
He said: “They told me the booking had been cancelled as a ‘no-show’ and they could not book me onto a new flight.”
BA says it acted incorrectly
In Mr Meldrum’s case, BA did acknowledge that it had acted incorrectly, with a staff member telling him: “Looking at what’s happened it does look like you’ve been incorrectly denied boarding today. I’m truly sorry for the inconvenience and don’t underestimate how annoyed you must be feeling.”
“Although it doesn’t change what’s happened, we’d like to rebook you free of charge for travel tomorrow,” the BA staff member added.
However, Mr Meldrum informed BA representatives that he was unable to fly the next day as his PCR test result would expire.
BA’s refusal to allow Mr Meldrum to board his flight entitled him to €400 (£360) in compensation under European air passengers’ rights rules. However, the airline refused to offer him compensation, saying: “Hi, Stephen. I’m afraid we won’t be able to offer you any compensation. I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
The British Embassy in Madrid said that it was ‘aware’ of instances whereby UK residents of Spain had been denied permission to board flights or enter Spain when in possession of the green residency document.
On its Facebook page, the Embassy said: “This should not be happening. The Spanish government have since re-confirmed that the green residency document will be accepted for travel to return to Spain, as stated in our travel advice.”
Commenting on the Brexit immigration chaos, a spokesperson for BA said: “In these difficult and unprecedented times with dynamic travel restrictions, we are doing everything we can to help and support our customers.”
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