British residents flying home to Spain have been prevented from boarding a joint BA-Iberia flight to Madrid because the airline claimed their pre-Brexit residency papers were no longer valid, while others were deported back to Britain from Barcelona for the same reason.
Max Duncan said the Iberia desk had refused to recognise his green card as proof of residence despite assurances by the British and Spanish governments that both the old foreign national identification (NIE) document and the new foreign ID card (TIE) remained valid.
Duncan said he and seven other residents of Spain had not been allowed to board the 10.55am flight to Madrid. The Spanish wife of one of the Britons was also part of the group.
Madrid had announced last year that in the light of Brexit, UK nationals resident in Spain would be given a photo ID to replace the residency papers carried by EU nationals although the green card would remain valid proof of residency.
It then restricted passenger travel from the UK on 22 December until 19 January after the discovery of the new coronavirus variant in southern England, with exceptions for Spanish nationals and those legally resident in Spain.
The British embassy in Madrid reiterated in a tweet on Saturday night that the green card was valid.
“This should not be happening, the Spanish authorities have reconfirmed again this evening that the green residency document will be valid for travel to return to Spain as stated in our travel advice,” it said.
Patricia Moody and her husband, who were flying home to Almería via Madrid, were also turned away.
“We had tickets with Iberia but someone said BA were accepting the green card so we bought tickets with them, so we spent a total of £1,500. BA boarded one of our suitcases then said we couldn’t board after all.”
Moody and her husband, who urgently needs medication, are waiting to hear from the British embassy in Madrid. Meanwhile, their PCR tests, which cost £249, are no longer valid for travel.
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It was not just the Madrid flight that was affected. On Saturday, Carlos Torres, who has dual UK-Portuguese nationality, narrowly escaped being deported when he arrived at Barcelona airport.
“Yesterday I was on flight BA474 from London Heathrow and landed in Barcelona at 13:20,” Torres wrote on Facebook.
“Everyone had their NIE, negative PCR test result and HR code [Spanish travel health] which all had been already checked prior to boarding at Heathrow. The police then start checking all the NIEs and calling people to verify their status. It quickly escalated to the police telling everyone they must board the plane and fly back to London.
“I kept telling them that I’m a European Union national and that they have to let me through. All the Brits were forced back on the flight (me included). Finally, the penny dropped and the senior police officer let me through at the last minute.”
Tens of thousands of Britons have registered to be issued with the new card but many are waiting to receive their ID as the system is overloaded.
There are about 300,000 British residents in Spain, although the number may be much higher as many live outside the Spanish system.
BA said in a statement: “In these difficult and unprecedented times with dynamic travel restrictions, we are doing everything we can to help and support our customers.”
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