“Yesterday [Saturday] there was a concentration of around 10,000 British passengers departing, but it is also interesting to note that, in the same period, 2,500 arrived. Therefore, despite the British rules, there are still Brits arriving in the Algarve”, said João Fernandes, the president of the Algarve Tourism Board to Lusa agency.
The president of the Algarve Tourism Region (RTA) acknowledged that "there were some specific constraints at Faro airport" due to the increase in traffic to the United Kingdom by passengers who sought to return before Tuesday, when Amber list rules come into force.
João Fernandes explained that the passengers, “many of them British”, were forced to “anticipate their return to arrive in the country before Tuesday” and thus escape the obligation to carry out a 10-day quarantine and two tests to covid-19 in that period due to the measure imposed by the British Government on all passengers arriving in the United Kingdom from Portugal.
The president of RTA explained that the influx that has generated large numbers of people in the 'check-in' area, especially on flights to the UK, “is calmer today” and “there are fewer passengers returning than yesterday [Saturday], which was the peak of this influx”.
João Fernandes pointed out two reasons to justify the accumulation in the 'check-in' zone: one related to the human resources provided by airlines and the other to the lack of filling in the forms required by the United Kingdom.
“With these zigzags from the British Government, [airlines] have not made available and do not have the human resources to open many counters, so they concentrate the lines at a few check-in points,” he said.
The other reason is that passengers who arrive at 'check-in' and “do not have the 'Passenger Location Form', which is information that must be submitted to an online platform with a specific code, which is an obligation that the British Government requires to enter the United Kingdom”, said João Fernandes.
“Many passengers, especially the older ones, who are info-excluded, do not even have a mobile phone of the latest generation and find it difficult to comply. They arrive at 'check-in' and take longer because they need to fill out the form,” he added.
The Algarve authorities have also increased the capacity to test covid-19 at Faro airport and in various parts of the region, “especially at weekends”, and have informed tourists, both upon arrival and during their stays in hotels, to take the tests before heading to the airport to catch their return flights.
“Yesterday [Saturday] it was reinforced with a truck to test people at the airport”, said João Fernandes, assuring “there is no one left to board due to lack of testing”.
As for repatriation flights, João Fernandes said that airlines and tour operators have been strengthening their response capacity according to the demand for return travel to the UK and pointed to the example of Tui, which “brought a Boeing 787, with capacity for 300 passengers”, in order to be able to repatriate more people before Tuesday.
The British decision to exclude Portugal from the “green list” of travel was taken on Thursday and drew criticism from the tourism sector, which was preparing for an increase in bookings and demand for tourists from the United Kingdom.