Cardiff Airport is the latest UK airport to install biometric e-passport gates to process arriving passengers.
Ken Skates, Economy and Transport Minister for Wales, said it was an “important part of no deal Brexit planning” as it would keep immigration queues down.
The gates can be used by anyone with a UK, EU, EAA or Swiss e-passport.
From summer 2019 they will be open to those with e-passports from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
The UK Government funds e-passport gates at airports with more than two million inbound passengers a year, meaning Cardiff – which saw 1.58 million passengers in 2018 – did not qualify. The Welsh Government, which owns the airport, put in £1m for the project.
Cardiff International Airport was one of the first UK airports to introduce e-gates, but they were removed in 2017 as the initial technology was superseded.
Ken Skates AM said: “Passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport have increased by 60 per cent since Welsh Government purchased the airport in 2013.
“The number of destinations has also increased significantly with over 50 direct route destinations and links to over 900 connecting destinations being offered, including a scheduled daily long-haul Qatar Airways flight to its Doha hub.
“The new e-passport gates are an important part of our no deal Brexit planning. They will help ensure queuing in immigration is minimised should the UK Government not secure a seamless departure from the EU.
“This smoother entry to Wales, and subsequently the UK, enhances the customer experience, whilst meeting all UK Border Force requirements.”
Skates also criticised what the Welsh Government claims is Westminster holding up plans to boost the number of domestic routes from Cardiff. Welsh ministers want to exempt flights to London, Manchester and other destinations from air passenger duty.
“We are also looking to reverse the decision of the UK Government to prevent us from creating a network of domestic air routes, aimed at better connecting Cardiff to other parts of the UK,” Skates said.
“The UK Government has for too long distorted the market in favour of larger airports. Future devolution of [air passenger duty] would go some of the way to levelling the playing field, which has been skewed in favour of other large airports in England,” he added.
On the new e-passport gates, Cardiff Airport CEO Deb Barber commented: “Cardiff Airport has been on a continuous journey of transformation over the past few years, during which time we have seen incumbent airlines such as KLM, TUI and Ryanair adding capacity, welcomed new airlines and seen new routes added to our route network, including a regular flight to Doha with Qatar Airways which creates vital links between Wales and the Middle East.
“It is essential therefore, that we have modern and efficient technology in place at the UK Border to create a safe, secure and seamless entry point into Wales for international passengers that is on a par with other larger regional airports in the UK. The unveiling today of our new ePassport gates is a very positive step forward in our long term strategy for growth and we are grateful to the Welsh Government for their support.”
The Welsh government bought Cardiff airport for £52m in 2013, however First Minister Carwyn Jones has said he does not see the ownership as indefinite and will consider a private partner in future.