From this week UK and Ireland passengers travelling to Spain will have to provide advance passenger information (API) to the Spanish government prior to their departure. Spain joins countries such as the USA, Mexico, Canada and China to ask for API from passengers, but is the first European country to do so.
Passengers will be required to provide the Spanish authorities with data including their name, date of birth, nationality and passport number. You might think that this doesn't pose a problem, as all this information is already included on a person's passport, but it's a question of exactly how it will be provided.
Some airlines (including Ryanair and Easyjet) have enabled customers to submit the information online, but for those carriers who don't provide this method, the data will have to be filled in at check-in, which is likely to lead to delays (and of course requires hand-luggage only passengers to visit a check-in desk). Indeed Ryanair itself is advising Spain-bound passengers to allow extra time to check-in for their flights from today. Any passengers who fail to submit their API data will not be allowed to board flights.
UK and Ireland passengers are being required to submit API data because they are not members of the "Schengen Free Travel Area", a European agreement that allows citizens of member countries to travel between one another without having to show travel documents. At present the agreement covers 15 countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), with another ten set to join in 2008. And while Spain may be the first country in Europe to adopt the API rules for non-Schengen members, it won't be the last – over the next twelve months other European countries are due to introduce API requirements, under a pan-European scheme.
For more information visit dft.gov.uk.
Report by Mark Caswell