Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Long Lines Loom at Popular Destinations
This summer, long lines loom at popular European destinations as new entry requirements create bottlenecks. The EU's Entry/Exit System (EES), launching May 2023, promises to strengthen security but could dampen vacations.
The EES mandates biometric checks like facial recognition and fingerprint scans for all non-EU nationals entering the bloc, even Americans accustomed to lax controls. Previously, authorities simply stamped passports. Now, they must collect and verify biometrics, photographing travelers and cross-checking databases.
The process seems quick but consider crowds. At Charles de Gaulle airport, 28 million passengers passed through in 2019. Even if each EES screening only takes a minute, the collective delay would be staggering. Then factor in inevitable technical glitches that could grind checkpoints to a halt.
Perhaps most affected are celebration hotspots like Ibiza and Mykonos. Revelers flocking there this summer should brace for epic lines unless authorities bolster staffing and technology. Based on early trials, that seems doubtful.
Reports from test runs in Paris suggest the system adds 5-10 minutes per passenger. For a family of four, that's up to 40 minutes at customs. And Paris already has modern e-gates; many airports don't, forcing manual checks.
Worse still, understaffed border posts can't absorb more work. Facing 105-million annual visitors, the EU needs 5,000+ extra agents just to maintain status quo speed. So far, only 700 have been hired. Without more, tourists will wait hours for clearance.
Even the savviest travelers will suffer. EES requires fingerprinting citizens of 62 countries, including visa-free ones like the U.S. Previously waved through, Americans must now provide biometric data, even on short trips.
For the EU's most popular nationality, that's an enormous change. Over 15 million Americans visit Europe annually. The slightest hiccup cascades across airports. If systems crash, for example, US tourists could be stuck in limbo.
What else is in this post?
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Long Lines Loom at Popular Destinations
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Technical Troubles to Trigger Airport Turmoil
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Schengen Shenanigans Snare Unsuspecting Tourists
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Border Blues Await Americans Abroad
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Bureaucratic Bottlenecks Bedevil Business Travelers
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Fingerprint Frustrations Foul Family Vacations
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Travel Woes in Store for Third-Country Nationals
- Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Airport Anxiety Anticipated Across Europe
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Technical Troubles to Trigger Airport Turmoil
Technical troubles with the EU's new Entry/Exit System (EES) threaten to trigger turmoil at airports across Europe this summer. As the May 2023 rollout nears, concerns mount that glitchy technology could bring border crossings to a standstill.
The stakes are high. EES mandates biometric checks like facial recognition and fingerprint scans for all non-EU travelers. That's hundreds of millions of people annually needing digital registration. But based on initial tests, the system lacks capacity for such volume.
In Paris, e-gates crashed repeatedly during trials last year. At one point, systems froze for 30 minutes, creating massive queues. Similar issues plagued airports in Madrid, Lisbon, and Athens. Fingerprint devices failed to scan properly. Facial recognition cameras struggled with large crowds.
These technical troubles do not bode well for smooth operations post-launch. EES will demand capturing high-quality biometric data from travelers of all ages and nationalities at speed. Glitchy technology cannot handle such complexity.
Consider an American family arriving at Frankfurt after an overnight flight. If fingerprint scanners malfunction, they may be forced to repeatedly rescan fingers while impatient passengers line up behind them. Or facial recognition could fail to identify their teenage son, holding up the whole family.
Border staff also face new burdens navigating buggy technology while under pressure to minimize queues. If e-gates crash, they must fingerprint and photograph travelers manually, then reconcile records once systems reconnect.
Limited tests already exposed EES' instability under crowded conditions. Operational rollouts are notoriously more difficult. Unless major upgrades occur, the stage is set for an airport turmoil triggered by technical troubles. And with the reputation of Europe's tourism industry at stake, solutions cannot come soon enough.
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Schengen Shenanigans Snare Unsuspecting Tourists
Europe’s Schengen Area allows passport-free travel between 26 countries, spanning from Iceland to Greece. For tourists, it’s a dream – visit Paris, zip to Amsterdam, swing through Milan, all without border checks. But Schengen’s very openness leaves it prone to confusion, and this summer, unsuspecting travelers will likely get snared in what I call “Schengen Shenanigans.”
See, while Schengen dissolved internal borders, external ones remain firm. Countries still monitor who enters and exits the bloc. Under the new EES system, that means mandatory biometric checks when visiting from outside Schengen, even if just transiting between member states.
Yet many tourists misunderstand this. They think because travel within Schengen is easy, security is lax entering it. Not so. An American couple vacationing in Spain could be stunned when asked for fingerprints before flying to Italy. Likewise, a Canadian family skiing in Austria may be surprised by facial recognition scans when crossing to Slovenia.
The risk is greatest for cruise passengers and island-hoppers. Folks sailing Greek isles assume open access; in reality, they clear customs at every port. Similarly, Brits island-hopping from Portugal to France could hit biometric checkpoints they didn’t expect.
Border zones especially bewilder visitors. France, for example, has overseas territories like French Guiana in the Schengen Area. Travelers may not realize they’ll face entry checks flying there from mainland France. Or how about Switzerland’s unusual status? Surrounded by Schengen, it’s a non-member, so even moving between neighboring countries requires border control.
The confusion stems from Schengen’s complexity. Distinguishing internal and external borders takes nuance many tourists lack. Also, countries sporadically suspend open borders, as during the migrant crisis, sowing further uncertainty. And rarely do immigration websites explain Schengen’s quirks simply for casual travelers.
In fairness, some tourists do grasp Schengen’s rules; they just assume sneaking around them is no big deal. French citizens living in London may duck checks driving home via the Channel Tunnel, or Greeks working in Belgium could avoid scans island-hopping on holiday. But with expanded oversight, the days of slipping through gaps unnoticed are ending.
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Border Blues Await Americans Abroad
After decades of easy access, American travelers now face biometric hurdles entering Europe. Previously waived through, US citizens must now provide fingerprints and facial scans when visiting the EU. For the 15 million Americans who vacation there annually, it's a new reality requiring forethought.
The change stems from Europe's stringent new Entry/Exit System (EES). Launching May 2023, it mandates biometric registration of all non-EU citizens, even from visa-free countries like the US. Gone are the days of quick passport stamps at continental airports. Travelers must now undergo thorough identity checks involving e-gates, fingerprint devices, facial recognition cameras, and database cross-referencing.
For Americans accustomed to basic customs clearance, especially on short-haul flights, it will likely come as an unwelcome surprise. Imagine the unsuspecting Ohio family who landed in Dublin ready to embark on a freewheeling road trip, only to be confronted with biometric kiosks and form filling. Or the New York couple, fresh off an overnight flight to Paris, bleary-eyed as border agents photograph and fingerprint them.
Previously, US citizens crossed EU borders freely. Now they must allocate extra time for security checkpoints. Even the most prepared travelers may need to adjust expectations. Fingerprint scanners, for example, notoriously struggle with dehydrated fingers after long-haul journeys, requiring repeated tries to get an accurate read. Kids' biometrics also pose challenges - squirmy toddlers won't hold still for facial recognition cameras.
Just reaching the new border checkpoints presents difficulties. Space is scarce, so airports must rearrange traffic flow, reassign staff, and install verification systems - no small task. Until the kinks are worked out, passengers face wayfinding woes. Imagine harried Americans wandering through mazelike queues searching out the special section for third-country nationals. Signage will provide little guidance until routines settle.
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Bureaucratic Bottlenecks Bedevil Business Travelers
For European businesses, the EU's new Entry/Exit System promises headaches galore. Mandatory biometric checks will bog down border crossings, forcing business travelers to sacrifice precious time to procedural bottlenecks.
Imagine the Frankfurt banker jetting to London for an early morning meeting, only to lose an hour at Heathrow to facial recognition queues. Or the Swedish sales rep racing to clinch a deal in Athens, just as border systems crash, extending her airport wait tenfold. Soon such nightmare scenarios may become routine.
Consider multinationals like BMW and Airbus with employees constantly circulating between facilities spread across the continent. Manufacturing schedules calibrated down to the minute will prove fantasy when staff spend half their travel days stuck in customs clearance.
Startups face equal threats as business trips turn bureaucratic odysseys. Imagine the fledgling Parisian AI firm negotiating contracts in Brussels. With leadership marooned at the border, deals could fall through. Or take the Milan tech startup demonstrating prototypes in Amsterdam. Engineering snafus are inevitable if the developer responsible languishes at immigration instead of troubleshooting onsite.
Even smaller businesses will feel the burden. Local accountants shuttling between small business clients across neighboring countries can no longer zip through borders unaffected. British consultants advising French wineries must build delays into their packed itineraries. German attorneys with pressing cross-border appointments must abandon punctuality.
And that's before factoring in system failures. Border control technology rarely functions flawlessly, especially early on. EES will be no different. Facial recognition glitches could suddenly leave executives unverified and in limbo. Fingerprint scans may falter at the slightest moisture or scratch. Database connectivity issues could even erase travelers' scan records entirely, forcing re-registration onsite.
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Fingerprint Frustrations Foul Family Vacations
For families planning a European vacation this summer, fingerprints could spell frustration. The EU's new Entry/Exit System requires biometric registration for all travelers, even kids. Yet glitchy fingerprint scanners may derail smooth border crossings, marring that magical family trip to Paris or Rome.
Just ask the Browns, a rambunctious American clan set to see the sights in Vienna and Munich this July. With three hyperactive kids under 10, TSA checkpoints already frazzle mom Jenny and dad Steve. Now add the stress of fingerprinting squirmy tykes—no easy feat.
Five-year-old Jimmy, eager to start vacation, refuses to open his eyes for facial recognition cameras. Eight-year-old Sarah shrieks over the "icky" touch of fingerprint pads. Baby Andy, startled by the process, smears the scanner's glass panel with sticky hand goo.
Before the family even leaves the airport, Jenny and Steve find themselves apologizing to border agents and pleading for patience from exasperated passengers stuck behind them. Vacation mood? More like meltdown mode.
Other family trips face similar jeopardy. Heather and Tim plan to surprise their teens with a Mediterranean cruise. But thanks to wonky fingerprint tech, 13-year-old Chelsea's right index finger scans improperly. Agents insist on re-registering all 10 fingerprints before allowing her to board. Annoyed after the third failed try, Chelsea storms off in humiliation as her parents scramble to calm the situation.
There's also middle-aged couple Barry and Karen, frequent travelers accustomed to waltzing through European borders only to have their US passports briefly stamped. But at Charles de Gaulle this summer, they’ll be confronted by snaking queues just to access biometric kiosks and cameras. So much for that romantic stroll through the Louvre on their first day in Paris.
And for Rosie, a solo parent vacationing with her tween in Spain, border bottlenecks could be downright dangerous. Her son Aiden's medication regimen requires timely doses, which will prove challenging if fingerprint scanning errors trap them for hours at customs. Let's just say Aiden's sensory issues mixed with air travel already makes for explosive scenarios without brewing delays.
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Travel Woes in Store for Third-Country Nationals
For travelers from outside the EU and Schengen zone, dubbed "third-country nationals," the new EES promises a high dose of hassle. Whether transiting the bloc or stopping in multiple countries, these visitors face rigorous biometric checks at every entry and exit.
Consider Anila, a teacher from India planning a girl's getaway across western Europe this summer with two friends. Amid the glitz of Paris and romance of Santorini awaits a decidedly less alluring aspect - border checkpoints. At each one, the group must shuffle through facial recognition cameras and fingerprint scanners before proceeding to their next destination.
So too will Eric, an Australian business consultant crisscrossing EU capitals for back-to-back meetings. His whirlwind itinerary leaves little wiggle room if, say, e-gates crash at Frankfurt Airport and trap him for an extra 30 minutes. Or if the Amsterdam hotel's central location near the port means taking a taxi to avoid fingerprinting delays each time he returns from a day trip.
Even tour groups feel the impact. Manish, an Indian engineer traveling with family, pre-booked an ambitious European highlights tour promising seamless transport. Yet the guide failed to account for lengthy waits at each border crossing while everyone queues up for biometric registration. His mother-in-law, unfamiliar with such procedures, grew flustered when asked to look into facial recognition cameras at Austria.
The problem magnifies for travelers crisscrossing multiple countries in the Schengen Area. On paper, internal borders are open, but in reality, third-country nationals undergo entry procedures whenever they enter from outside Schengen. A Brazilian couple honeymooning in both Spain and Italy must resubmit biometrics at each stop. Ditto for the Thai students interrailing from France to the Netherlands to Germany.
Borders Bottlenecked: How the New EU Entry System Could Snarl Summer Travel - Airport Anxiety Anticipated Across Europe
Across Europe, airport anxiety looms as the May 2023 EES rollout nears. For EU gateway cities, the stakes are high to minimize tourist frustration. Any whiff of border chaos could dent summer arrivals, wounding already pandemic-battered economies.
Just ask tourism-reliant Portugal. In 2019, a record 27 million visitors descended upon Lisbon, Porto, and Algarve resorts. Then COVID-19 cratered travel. As recovery momentum builds, headaches at passport control could reverse it fast. Word spreads quickly when snaking immigration queues or glitchy kiosks mar that first or last impression of a city. Portugal cannot afford such PR blows.
Spain frets over similar backslides. Barcelona draws scores of weekend-trippers who tolerate the airport hassle for a few days of tapas and Gaudi. But make customs clearance a lengthy tribulation? Tourists may rethink those quick hops south. Spain's sunny islands face this threat too. Travelers will only endure so many passport checks when island-hopping before abandoning the endeavor.
Greece watches anxiously as well. Athens struggled for years to shake its reputation for airport dysfunction. Remember images of sweltering halls packed with refugees back in 2016? Greece cannot slip back into such association. Not when it's investing big to elevate Athens as a stopover hub. Anything less than seamless first impressions could upend growth.
The UK, meanwhile, obsesses over optics around Brexit and its "global Britain" reboot. The last thing Britain needs is world headlines blaring Heathrow's border bottleneck woes. Yet long queues seem inevitable given those pre-Brexit images of commuters stuck in Eurostar chaos. Plus, the UK now faces its own version of EES as a non-EU state. That's a tall order for Heathrow, already bursting with 78 million passengers annually.
Germany takes a special hit too as home to Europe's busiest airport. Frankfurt handles 70 million travelers each year. Teething troubles in trial EES runs already flashed a frightening preview. Until Frankfurt's Terminals 1 and 2 can swiftly process biometric checks, Germany's reputation as an efficient transport hub suffers.