On the first weekend since the Brexit transition phase ended, UK residents of Spain seeking to return to their homes have been wrongly turned away by British Airways staff at Heathrow as they prepared to fly home.
With the ending of the transition, British passport holders are no longer granted automatic access to the European Union. In addition, Spain – in common with many other EU countries – is imposing tough rules to try to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
Only Spanish nationals and legal residents of Spain are allowed to board flights from the UK until 19 January.
British people who live in Spain are required to carry one of two documents demonstrating their right to travel: either a green EU residence certificate or a tarjeta de identidad de extranjero (TIE), a new biometric residency card specifically for Spain.
They must also have a PCR test for coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival in Spain.
But passengers booked on several British Airways flights say they were wrongly denied boarding at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
One traveller, James Elliot, tweeted: “I was booked on BA482 flying to Barcelona, Spain today.
“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. Tried explaining that the green card meant I’m a resident of Spain but was told by two BA staff that it wasn’t.
“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.”
Stephen Meldrum contacted The Independent after he was booked on British Airways flight 454 from Heathrow to Malaga on Saturday.
He said he had all the right documentation but was incorrectly told only Spanish passport holders were allowed on board.
“They told me the booking had been cancelled as a ‘no-show’ and they could not book me onto a new flight.”
Eventually BA agreed it had acted incorrectly. Mr Meldrum was told: “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.”
Mr Meldrum said: “I cannot travel tomorrow as my PCR test would be out of date. The earliest I can get a PCR test result is Monday evening, so I am opting for Tuesday’s flight.”
BA’s decision wrongly to deny him boarding made him eligible for £350 in compensation under UK air passengers’ rights rules. But the airline told him: “Hi, Stephen. I’m afraid we won’t be able to offer you any compensation. I’m sorry to disappoint you.”
On a joint British Airways-Iberia flight from Heathrow to Madrid, a further nine people were reported to have been denied boarding.
The British embassy in Madrid said on its Facebook page that it was aware of cases of UK residents in Spain not being able to board flights in the UK or enter Spain when travelling using the green residency document.
“This should not be happening,” the embassy said.
“The Spanish government have today re-confirmed that the green residency document will be accepted for travel to return to Spain, as stated in our travel advice.”
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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