Border Delays Will Persist “For Up to a Year” After the EU’s EES System Rollout

| July 8, 2024
Border Delays Will Persist "For Up to a Year" After the EU's EES System Rollout

Travelers heading to Europe must brace themselves for delays at airports and border crossings for at least a year.

This will become the new standard once the European Union’s (EU’s) Entry/Exit System (EES) takes effect.

The EU will launch it on 6 October 2024, so travelers have less than 100 days to prepare for the change.

Andrea Godfrey, head of Regent Travel, told The Telegraph that the “exact details” of the EES system are “still pretty unclear.”

This has caused frustration among travelers and raised concerns over its impact on tourism and business travel.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is expected to release an update “until later in the summer.”

However, since the EES was announced, the travel and transport industries have only been informed to anticipate delays.

“We have been told to expect delays and queues in airports for up to a year,” says Godfrey.

She added, “The early days of these schemes are likely to be chaotic and slow.”

Discover Ferries, the industry body for passenger ferries, also expressed concerns about “the lack of clarity” on the EES system.

This lack of clarity could cause confusion, unnecessary border queues, and delayed booking trips.

“This could negatively impact operators, ports, and customers’ travel experience,” a spokesperson for Discover Ferries said.

What is the EES system?

The EES system automatically records travelers’ entry and exit from the EU through fingerprint and facial scans.

It will replace the current method of manual passport stamping, which is slower and less efficient.

Short-stay visa holders and visa-exempt nationals must submit fingerprint and facial scans before an EU border officer to register for the EES.

The system will store travelers’ biometric data for three years and refresh every time they visit the Schengen Zone.

If they revisit the EU after three years or after their data has expired, they must register their biometric data again before a border officer.

By automating the process, the EES aims to improve security, reduce the risk of overstays, and enhance the overall efficiency of border checks.

Initially slated for a 2022 rollout, the system’s implementation has been pushed back several times.

Integrating the new EES system with existing infrastructure across the 27 EU Member States has proven to be complex.

Expected travel delays due to the EES

The EES system has sparked concerns in the United Kingdom (UK), which shares several vital border crossings with the EU.

Due to the EES, travel and transport officials have warned travelers about longer wait times at the UK-EU borders.

This is mainly because each traveler needs to register biometric data at the border for the first time.

However, travelers have been warned that they may still experience longer waiting times after the initial registration.

The delays are expected to worsen during peak hours and peak travel seasons when airports and border crossings are already under much strain.

Many also question the reliability of the EES system with the recent electronic gate (eGate) outages in the UK.

Lord Cameron, the UK Foreign Secretary, expressed worries that the “technology still needs testing and improving.”

If the EES system fails, border officers must manually process travelers entering and leaving the EU.

He was particularly concerned with the Port of Dover and St. Pancras Station, which could become even more congested.

UK’s Port of Dover and St. Pancras ready for EES

The Port of Dover has set up separate lanes with EES kiosks for coach passengers and tablets for cars to streamline the EES process.

Additional staff are being deployed to help manage the increased workload.

Eurostar has assured passengers there will be enough EES kiosks for travelers to avoid delays.

It has also prepared an area for accommodating long lines during peak hours if needed.

The EU is also developing a mobile app that could help speed up EES registration by collecting personal data beforehand.

However, many sources have confirmed it will not be ready for the EES system launch in October.

The UK government also said it will have a six-month soft-launch period to test and modify the new system.

Travel and economic implications

The delays are inconvenient for travelers and have broader economic implications.

Tourism is a significant industry for many EU countries, and extended delays could deter visitors and hurt the tourism economy.

A recent UK government study showed that one in seven Brits were less likely to visit the EU because of the EES system.

Business travelers who rely on efficient and timely travel may also seek alternative destinations or conduct more virtual meetings.

For now, travelers can only adjust their travel times to account for the possible delays at the border.

Due to the EES registration, this will be vital during their first trip to any of the 29 EU Member States.

However, some advise travelers to visit the Schengen Zone once the EES systems have had the time to settle.

Others also suggest waiting until the EU’s travel authorization system, ETIAS, launches before booking travel.

Calls for postponement

Amidst the ongoing delays, there have been calls for the EU to postpone the implementation of the EES system further.

French officials and UK committees have urged the EU to consider the impact on travelers. Both have asked to delay launching the system until all technical issues are resolved.

Despite the challenges and calls to delay the EES rollout, officials remain optimistic about the new system’s long-term benefits.

Once implemented, the EES system is expected to enhance border security and reduce wait times significantly.

The EU is now committed to ensuring the system is operational by the new deadline. Still, many believe further delays are still possible.