SEF says Sunday chaos at Faro airport which delayed flights was ‘unique situation’

in News · 10-05-2018 14:31:00 · 6 Comments
SEF says Sunday chaos at Faro airport which delayed flights was ‘unique situation’

The Algarve grabbed international headlines for the wrong reasons this past week after travellers passing through the airport last Sunday evening flooded social media with images of a packed passport control concourse and complaints of having to queue for hours in sweltering conditions.

Two Aer Lingus flights were delayed as a result of the boiling backlog.
In comments to The Portugal News, the Irish flag-carrier confirmed “Aer Lingus flight EI499 Faro-Dublin and flight EI899 Faro-Cork experienced some delays on Sunday 6 May due to Passport Control at Faro airport.
“Both flights landed within less than 30 minutes beyond their scheduled arrival. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to guests impacted by these delays which were due to circumstances beyond our control.”
Irish TV and radio presenter Brenda Donohue, who works for Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ, was caught up in the mayhem and tweeted about the “unbelievable scenes.”
Speaking to the Irish Times, Donohue, who was stuck in the middle of the throng, said she had “never experienced anything like it”.
“It looks like passport control operators have gone on a lightening strike. Safety issues here as hundreds are in a cramped queue for one guy to check all the passports! No security, no air conditioning and no explanation”, she tweeted.
Others took to the micro-blogging site to deem the situation “beyond ridiculous” and “disgraceful”.

The uncomfortable scenes of an “overcrowded” and “boiling” concourse tightly packed with hundreds of passengers and allegedly without any air conditioning, have lead to many querying whether this type of situation could reoccur more frequently with the onset of the busy summer season.
Answering queries posed by The Portugal News, Portugal’s immigration and borders control authority SEF, which oversees airport passport control, said waiting times associated with border control at Faro Airport “are normally below 10 minutes”.
“At times, there is a greater flow of passengers in arrivals, because several airplanes land in short periods of time. SEF has responded accordingly to these types of situations with a careful management of personnel to fulfil to all the competencies for which SEF is responsible”, the authority explained.
Regarding Sunday’s scenes at Faro Airport, SEF said “the situation reported reflects a unique episode, restricted to a time period between 7.40pm and 9pm on May 6.
“A great influx was registered in the airport structure during that time (19 flights landed, which corresponds to more than 6,000 passengers to control in the space of one and a half hours) and SEF responded by adopting measures that allowed the regularisation of the flow of passengers to be controlled in half an hour. By around 9.30pm., the embarkation and disembarkation areas had a normalised flow of passengers”.
Faro airport director Alberto Mota Borges said: “This is a one-off situation that should not be generalised.
“The problem occurred within a specific time (one and a half hours) where a peak of traffic coincided with a period in which, for operational reasons, SEF had a lower availability of human resources, thereby causing a reduction in the capacity of point source control”.
Mota Borges stressed that SEF’s policy structures “immediately activated the control measures provided for in the Convention on the Application of Schengen Agreements”, and that within half hour “normality both in arrivals and departures” was restored.
He said the Algarve airport works closely with SEF and maintains good relations and a good level of service.
“Team planning is done in advance to meet the estimated number of passengers, and there is no reason to say that it is a structural problem.
“ANA Aeroportos de Portugal [the national airport management company] will do everything with SEF so that, in the context of good relations with this entity, a good level of service is maintained for passengers, and that the situation is not repeated”, he pledged.


It certainly was not corrected in half an hour we queued for 1.5 hrs. It is the 2nd time it has happened to me - never have I seen such chaos but also all the passengers who did queue should applaud themselves for their wonderful controlled behaviour. Perhaps if Mr Borges had come himself to explain or indeed anyone would have made the understanding of the situation more tolerable. This shrugging it off as unique is not acceptable to those of us who know that to be incorrect. Shocking start to a holiday - to land a little ahead of time and then be stood for 1.5 hrs - half the flight time is utterly ridiculous and unsafe as some people were stood on the stairs waiting to join the long snake queue.

by Margaret Clark from UK on 22-05-2018 12:52:00

The SEF is a disaster and all the bosses need to be replaced and the SEF given precise instructions concerning its performance . There have been problems with the SEF and its staff for several years ( strikes etc prove this) and it should be made to have a minimum level of efficient service at borders . The Portuguese government should also be punished by the EU for not providing an efficient and operational immigration service .

by PG from Lisbon on 17-05-2018 06:23:00

Looks like these chaotic scenes haven't really improved since. I arrived on Sunday a week later and the queues weren't much better. They went around the building like a snake. I had been waiting for 10 minutes only to find that busloads of people were entering the queue ahead through the door at the back. There was no staff or signs to help or herd the hundreds of people in this space. I have been using this airport for 40 years and never have I seen anything like this. And to think that this space has just been renovated! Not a great intro to the Algarve. Absolutely disgusting organisation!

by Michdude from UK on 16-05-2018 08:01:00

Why does the SEF mention fights arriving, when the delay was in departures?? Surely the SEF can manage its manpower around the expected arrivals and departures.

by Claire Devlin from Other on 16-05-2018 10:51:00

It happens every tim i arrive in Faro. The mechanical system for checking passports 8s almost broken every time

by jim middleton from UK on 11-05-2018 07:20:00

This is not an isolated incident. The Departures process is a disaster from Check in to Security to Passport Control. The airport is not equipped with enough staff at security or Passport control to cope with high volumes of people. It leaves a very poor impression for Travellers thinking of holidaying again in the Algarve. ANA Spent enough on the Airport Expansion - Get it Right !

by James from Other on 11-05-2018 04:26:00
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