Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) inspector Ana Vieira has said that the long queues at Lisbon airport reflect the exponential increase in tourism and an inadequate infrastructure for the number of passengers.
"Quite honestly, we were not prepared for this exponential increase in tourism and passengers, and the infrastructure itself, as the Minister of Internal Administration has already said, is also not adequate for this scenario," said inspector Ana Vieira speaking to journalists at Lisbon's Humberto Delgado airport, following several news reports of long queues and hours of waiting for passengers arriving in Lisbon.
"The wait that we’ve seen today (13 June) means that with the [entry control] positions all occupied, we still have not managed to reduce the waiting times," admitted the inspector, stressing that "between 5am and 2pm more than 11,000 passengers were checked, with all 16 lanes occupied, and with the e-gates still working, and despite this there was still a wait of approximately two hours."
Never so bad
In statements to the press, inspector Vieira also said: "We try to adapt our contingency plan to the reality that we are facing, but I have a lot of experience with airports, and I never remember waiting times this bad, nor this volume of passengers, it is a new reality that we are facing".
Questioned about whether the situation will worsen in the summer, with the predictable increase in passengers, the inspector was hopeful that the contingency plan, which provides for the hiring of more SEF staff and the allocation of other departments to control arrivals, may improve the situation, but without giving any guarantees.
Vieira also stressed that the work of SEF is not only to control the arrivals and departures of passengers, and emphasised the pressure that these workers are under.
"We hope that the situation improves, not only for the passengers, but also for us, because the pressure that we are subject to is very strong; the activity of SEF is not only the control of arrivals, but there are also other aspects, and the issue is that we still have to tend to these aspects of the job that cannot be neglected, otherwise our work is not being done well", she concluded.
Peak in passengers
The press conference followed a statement released earlier, in which SEF justified the reason for the delays as being down to a peak of passengers.
In the statement, SEF said the Contingency Plan for Portuguese airports - also implemented in previous years - began on June 2 and will be fully operational only from July 4, when the reinforcement of 238 SEF and PSP staff will be complete, totalling 529 officers.
"This week the Contingency Plan also foresees, as of June 15, an increase in the reinforcement of staff at Lisbon and Porto airports, by personnel from other SEF units, in a growing effort of commitment that will be implemented gradually until July," explained SEF.
The three airports that have received the greatest staff increases over this period are Lisbon (with 102 more officers, or +73% more staff), Porto (49 more officers, +122%) and Faro (with 45 more, +76%).
Canadians and Americans
SEF also stated that this week is also scheduled to extend the use of e-gates, in the RAPID4ALL project, to two more nationalities, namely Canada and the USA, increasing to seven the number of nationalities that can use this feature at the entrances to national airports.