Lisbon airport queues due to tourism increase, unsuitable facilities

  • Lusa
  • 14 June 2022

Waiting times at the arrivals area of Lisbon airport exceeded three hours on Sunday due to "insufficient resources and SEF border control posts in operation", ANA Airports said.

The inspector of Portugal’s immigration and borders service, SEF, Ana Vieira has said that the long queues at Lisbon airport reflect the exponential increase in tourism and an inadequate infrastructure for the number of passengers.

“Quite honestly, we were not prepared for this exponential increase in tourism and passengers, and the infrastructure itself, as the minister of the interior has already said, is also not adequate for this situation,” said inspector Ana Vieira speaking to journalists on Monday afternoon at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport, following several reports of long queues and hours of waiting for passengers arriving in Lisbon.

“The wait that we have seen today means that with the arrivals passport control positions all occupied, we have not managed to reduce the waiting times,” admitted the inspector, stressing that “between 5am and 2pm more than 11,000 passengers were checked, with all 16 positions occupied, and with the e-gates still working, and despite this there was a wait of approximately two hours.”

In statements to the press on Monday afternoon, inspector Ana Vieira also said: “We try to adapt the contingency plan to the circumstances we are facing, but I have a lot of experience with airports and I never remember these waiting times, nor this volume of passengers, it is a new reality that we are facing”.

Questioned about whether the situation will worsen in the summer, with the predictable increase in passengers, the inspector was hopeful that the contingency plan, which provides for the hiring of more SEF staff and the allocation of other departments to control arrivals, may improve the situation, but without giving any guarantees.

“Whether it will continue or intensify in the summer… the exponential increase in staff for the situation we currently have may prevent us from having staff available to carry out an embarkation without having to go to the border area,” she exemplified.

Vieira also stressed that the work of the SEF is not only to control the arrivals and departures of passengers and emphasised the pressure that these workers are under.

“We hope that the situation improves, not only for the passengers, but also for us, because the pressure that we are subject to is very heavy; the activity of SEF is not only the control of arrivals, there are other aspects, and the issue is that we still have to correspond to these aspects that cannot be neglected, otherwise our work is not being well done”, she concluded.

Monday afternoon’s press conference follows a statement released earlier in the afternoon, in which the SEF justified the reason for the “accentuated delays” with a peak of passengers, namely 3,000 passengers off flights to be controlled.

In the statement, SEF recalls that the contingency plan for Portuguese airports – also implemented in previous years – began on 2 June and will be fully operational only from 4 July, when the increase of 238 SEF and PSP police staff will be complete, totaling 529 employees.

“This week the contingency plan also envisages, from 15 June, an increase in internal reinforcement at Lisbon and Porto airports, by staff from other SEF units, in a growing effort of commitment that is gradual until July,” explains the SEF.

The three airports that have received the most reinforcements over this period are Lisbon (with 102 more police officers, or +73% more staff), Porto (49 more officers, +122%) and Faro (with 45 more, representing +76%).

The SEF also states that this week the use of e-gates in the RAPID4ALL project will be extended to two more nationalities, namely Canada and the USA, increasing to seven the number of nationalities that can use this functionality at the entrances to Portuguese airports.

On Sunday, the entity that manages the Portuguese airports, ANA Aeroportos, had already warned about the waiting times to which passengers were subjected.

Waiting times at the arrivals area of Lisbon airport exceeded three hours on Sunday due to “insufficient resources and SEF border control posts in operation”, ANA Airports said.

“Today we again unfortunately witnessed high waiting times that exceeded three hours in the arrivals area of Lisbon airport due to insufficient resources and SEF border control posts in operation,” ANA Airports said in a statement.