New travel rules set to come into force in 2024 could put a stop to last-minute holiday bookings, airline bosses fear. Flight operators have spoken out over the new Entry/Exit System for going to EU countries, saying it won’t permit late ticket sales that are a key part of their business.
The Entry/Exit System or EES will be an automated check for people every time they cross an EU border into any countries using the new system. It will register the person’s name, type of travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and captured facial images), and the date and place of entry and exit “in full respect of fundamental rights and data protection.”
Non-EU citizens – such as those in the UK – who do not need a visa to enter Europe for up to 90 days at a time will have their fingerprints and pictures taken the first time they cross a border. The system will store a combination of four fingerprints and your facial image. If you need a visa to enter the EU, the system will only store your facial image as your fingerprints will have already been registered as part of the visa application.
However, the key stumbling block for airlines is that they must get confirmation of the travel eligibility of passengers a minimum of 48 hours before a scheduled departure.
EES was originally set to be introduced in 2022 but has been delayed twice and is thought to be starting in late 2024, sometime after the Paris Olympics end on August 11. According to some recent reports, Eurotunnel has said that ES will come into effect on October 6, 2024, but there has been no confirmation from the European Union at this point.
Ahead of the launch of the new measures, airlines have expressed concerns that confirmation of passenger eligibility is needed too early. No later than 48 hours before a flight, the airlines have to send verification inquiries to the EES system to find out whether those who have booked seats have an ‘OK’ or ‘NOT OK’ status.
Ryanair says this is too far in advance and will not allow it to sell last-minute flight tickets, SchengenVisaInfo.com reported. The airline is also asking EU officials to provide training to help airports adapt to the changes.
Ryanair said: “Note that the ‘hard’ 48-hour deadline is too long. This will preclude late ticket sales, which are an extremely important element of Ryanair’s (and other airlines’) revenue. It is a far from ideal arrangement; normally, one would expect such a development introducing electronic systems to improve rather than detract from efficiency.”
The airline has also complained about having to deal with those passengers who are travelling on a long-stay visa and won’t come under EES rules. Ryanair says it would have to carry out standard visa checks in these cases, causing delays as well as inconvenience.
Other challenges associated with the implementation of EES, according to Ryanair, are that rules are unclear on what to do if the new electronic systems go down and they are unable to receive messages on whether people are eligible to board the plane.
Who needs to use the EES system?
The EES applies to you if you are a non-EU national travelling for a short stay to a European country who either:
- has a short-stay visa; or
- does not need a visa to stay for a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period
Your travel document data and personal data will be collected, as well as your entry and exit dates, and registered electronically in the system. If you overstay the period allowed in the European countries using the EES, the system will identify you and record this information. It will also record any times a person is refused entry.
The European Union said: “The main advantage of the EES is saving time. The EES replaces passport stamping and automates border control procedures, making travelling to European countries using the EES more efficient for the traveller.
“The EES also makes it easier to identify travellers who have no right to enter or who have stayed in the European countries using the EES for too long. It makes it easier to detect travellers using fake identities or passports. Finally, the EES helps to prevent, detect and investigate terrorist offences or other serious criminal offences.”
EU officials say the 29 countries where EES will be operational are:
The European Union has indicated that in Cyprus and Ireland, EES won’t apply and passports will continue to be stamped manually even though the two countries are members of the EU.
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