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-   -   Current Covid & Post Brexit Travel Experience & Customs (https://www.forum.puertopollensa.com/flights-palma-de-mallorca-majorca/14727-current-covid-post-brexit-travel-experience-customs.html)

James 21-06-2021 00:32

Current Covid & Post Brexit Travel Experience & Customs
 
I’ve seen a few comments on the Covid times/post Brexit travel to and arrival experiences at Palma Airport but not in great detail so I thought I would share a blow by blow account of my experience travelling to Palma this Sunday morning.

In the 15 years I have had my home in the Port this is the longest enforced absence I have been away from it by a very large margin including last year’s lockdowns in the UK and Spain. As President of my community, of which I am the only Brit, I could not delay my return any longer for various reasons.

After about half a dozen notified flight changes and the eventual cancellation by easyJet of my flights from and to Gatwick I moved my travel plans on to the first of two scheduled British Airways flights from Heathrow on Sunday with my flight set to depart at 7.35am.

Check-in/bag drop was smooth with no queues for the check-in zone at Heathrow Terminal 5 designated for the flight and took no more than two minutes to complete.

Heathrow Security was a little busier but still only took about 10 minutes to clear. The departure boards indicated that my BA Palma flight was departing from Terminal 5’s B Gates sub terminal which is reached via an underground light railway so I headed straight over to the B Gates to wait for the actual gate announcement.

The B Gates were fairly quiet at 6.30am with only a handful of flights to Marseille, Gibraltar, Tel Aviv, Rome and, of course, Palma. All of the shops there were closed and some appeared permanently closed for the time being but others like WH Smiths were preparing to open.

The gate itself was announced at 6.45am and boarding commenced promptly at 7.05am by row number and not by cabin/BA boarding group priority. While not completely full, I was pleasantly surprised that both the business class and economy cabins of the 6 month old and generously spaced 168 seater Airbus A320 operating the flight were at least three quarters full of passengers heading to Palma.

The plane pulled back from the gate slightly before schedule and it was airborne by 7.45.

The flight landed at Palma 10 minutes early and taxied to a branch (C65/66) of the airport’s C Gates. As many on here will know, British/non-Schengen flights requiring passport control usually depart and arrive at Palma’s ‘old airport area’ A Gates other than in the off-season when there are fewer such flights and this area of the airport is mothballed. With so few British/non-Schengen flights the mothballing of the A Gates area has been extended into the summer season.

Passport control is currently located adjacent to Gates C65/66 and consists of two small ‘huts’, one for arrivals and one for departures, each consisting of two officers and separate queues. One queue is for EU citizens and the other is for citizens of non-EU countries.

Thankfully there was only one non-Schengen arrival immediately before my flight which arrived from Liverpool but, as you would expect, the non-EU citizens queue for one solitary Passport control officer was three to four times longer than the other queue for arriving EU citizens.

Once the EU citizens queue was cleared the officer for it called over non-EU citizens to divide and share the arrival checks.

Unlike the cursory ‘’manual” ‘waive through’ checks of old in Spain which, to be fair, largely disappeared 3/4 years ago, every passport was checked properly visually as well as electronically and then stamped with an entry stamp a la 1960s! I don’t even remember that occurring before Spain joined the then EEC in 1986!

In all, however, the passport queue was cleared relatively quickly in 10 minutes or so and the infrastructure in place is absolutely adequate for the current [lack of] demand and non-Schengen/British travellers. If there were many more non-Schengen flights arriving into the current C Gates branch at the same time though, should the current restrictions on travel from the UK eventually be reduced thereby increasing the number of flights, I would suggest passengers to be prepared for a bit of a queue and wait if the present Passport control infrastructure remains the same!

After clearing Passport control there was a long… long… long… walk around the houses to a large health check clearance area close to luggage claim belt 1. This uses temperature check scanners to check if passengers have a high temperature. They also manually check here for certified PCR negative test results if arriving from a destination where one is required (which does not presently include arrivals from the UK) along with scanning and clearing the QR code from passengers’ required pre-flight submitted passenger locator health forms.

My arriving flights’ hold luggage was placed on luggage belt 6 adjacent to the brand new Palma airport Customs clearance check area.

After registering my flight on the AENA Spanish airports’ phone app a few days ago I received notification of the designation of this luggage belt for the flight 24 hours before the departure! On arrival there were three Guardia Civil Customs Border Guards watching the passengers collecting luggage from the luggage belt.

The new Customs exit from the baggage collection hall has three channels that regular UK/EU travellers will recognise. There is a blue EU arrivals channel, a green ‘nothing to declare‘ channel and a red ‘something to declare’ channel.

As mentioned above, the luggage belt 6 for my flight was adjacent to this new Customs exit. I was and am already aware that, in these post Brexit times, although the UK has chosen to not place any restrictions on food, drink, animal and plant related imports from the EU (so we can still bring back Sobrasadas and Endaimadas!) the EU now imposes stringent criteria banning meat, dairy and plant related imports from the UK. Amongst other things, this means you cannot bring in diary milk chocolate, ham or other meat sandwiches etc. and face a potential fine if you do.

As I headed to the green ‘nothing to declare’ channel I was stopped by a Guardia Civil Customs Border Guard who asked me in English where I had arrived from. When I said England he told me I “had to” go through the “red” something to declare’ channel. I responded that I had nothing to declare but his response was that all non-EU arrivals “must” go through the “red” channel.

There is a limited space by baggage belt 6 and the Customs exit marking a queue to form to go through the “red” channel is not very large or long. The “red” channel itself consisted of a solitary Guardia Civil Customs Border Guard interacting in a polite but assertive way and one single large baggage X-Ray machine which he directed and required every passenger to place all their hold and hand luggage on to to be scanned and checked by a group of other Guardia Civil Customs Border Guards for EU designated illegal “contraband”!

I noticed that some people managed to avoid placing their hand luggage through the single X-Ray machine but no hold luggage escaped the scanning and attention of the authorities.

Again, as mentioned above, as there was only one other non-EU/non-Schengen flight that had arrived just before my flight from Liverpool so the Customs queue moved relatively quickly and, in all, it was approximately only 30 to 40 minutes in total from exiting the plane to finally exiting the airport.

I do not know if my experience was or is typical of most days in these very unusual times but, as a word of caution, IF the Spanish/Palma authorities persist with requiring all British/non-EU/non-Schengen arrivals to exit through the “red” ‘something to declare’ channel and queue to have all their luggage X-Rayed and checked without expanding their infrastructure to support such a stringent requirement, rather than permit passengers to exit through the “green” channel if they genuinely have nothing to declare and instead subject passengers to random checks in the way it is typically operated by most countries, I would anticipate lengthy queues and waits exceeding those of Australian bio-security standards if and when travel and the number of flights from the UK [hopefully] increases!

hoopy 21-06-2021 06:49

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Carol 21-06-2021 07:22

We arrived on 8th June and our experience at Palma airport was the same except after picking up our luggage. We picked up our suitcase from baggage belt 6 - no guardia customs police - went straight through the ‘green channel’ it took us 30 minutes from landing to leaving the airport. When did you arrive? Maybe they are selecting certain flights for observation? We came from Bournemouth and only 40 people on our flight.

bobley 21-06-2021 07:49

We landed on the 17th at 9.30am. Short queue at passport, bit of a walk out to the health check and back and straight out of the door to meet the taxi. 9.55 we were joining the motorway and by 10.30 we were at our front door.

Taxi driver ( from Conde) was really friendly and said they wanted more Brits to come. In fact every restaurant has said that. Chop chop folks.

Tiggy 21-06-2021 09:03

Well done ! James - a super informative, straight down the middle report without the need for bad Dad/Granddad jokes or any hint of xenophobia ...

Rockape 21-06-2021 09:25

A couple of things to add:

I put my camera and blue tooth speaker in my bag that went through the scanner, but was asked to remove them and put them in a separate tray. Leter when I got to the gate I realised that my sun glasses that were in one of the trays were missing. Couldn't have fallen out and couldn't have left them in the trays! Be on your guard in these areas! (This was in Palma)

Secondly, at Gatwick, the Customs were stopping people in the green lanes and checking bags!

Bircho 21-06-2021 11:25

When we arrived, those who had used the SpTH app split based on where you came from. Uk arrivals were marked Fast Control and so went through a different aisle and with no test to show and so were quicker. Also hand luggage only were allowed through nothing to declare.

kate1 21-06-2021 11:54

We arrived last Sunday and our airport experience was very similar to James's, except that we were not asked to go through the red channel (we had three hold bags) and in fact sailed very quickly through the green channel. It was all remarkably painless given what we had been expecting and I would advise anyone not to be discouraged by talk of chaos at passport control or the health check area - although I would say that the health check was pretty busy when we were there and I can only imagine as more flights arrive this could be worse. So weird getting our passports stamped though! - hadn't expected that. Interestingly our Heathrow flight was quite busy, at least in Business - I'd imagine a lot of people (ourselves included) are frantically using up vouchers from cancelled flights and holidays. I must admit I shed a tear on landing - had really started to think we would never be here again. And it's been so lovely to get such a warm greeting from all of the people working at restaurants, bars - we have known many of them for years and they feel like family. Really sad too to hear that a couple of businesses hadn't survived - La Fonda for one - and I'd guess there are likely to be several more if tourists don't start arriving soon. The only downside has been the need to wear a mask outside - in thirty degrees heat this really is no joke, it does quickly feel like your face is immersed in a sauna, and I can only take my hat off to all the people who work and live here who have been doing this for so many months. Thank goodness this restriction ends this week.

Carol 21-06-2021 12:06

Just a quick note - spanish govt have announced that face masks do not have to be worn outside from 26th June - still obligatory to wear inside - shops etc and when entering restaurants.

Gommar Goffer 21-06-2021 12:43

Quote:

Originally Posted by Carol (Post 133037)
Just a quick note - spanish govt have announced that face masks do not have to be worn outside from 26th June - still obligatory to wear inside - shops etc and when entering restaurants.

You will still need to wear one outside if you cannot maintain a safe 1.5m distance from other people


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