British Expats Barred from Madrid Flight in Post-Brexit Confusion

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British Expats Barred from Madrid Flight in Post-Brexit Confusion
Several expats were told their Spanish documents were no longer valid by BA/Iberia staff - Image Source: Max Duncan Twitter

A GROUP of British expats living in Spain was barred from boarding a Madrid bound flight from Heathrow after staff told them their residency papers were invalid following Brexit.

Nine passengers, all British expats living in Spain, were prevented from boarding the Iberia/British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Madrid on Saturday night. Airline staff told the group that their residency papers had become invalid following Brexit, despite assurances from both the UK and Spain that this would not be the case.

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Among the passengers was Max Duncan, a Madrid based British journalist and photographer who took to Twitter to report on the confusion. Despite possessing a Spanish Foreign National Identification (NIE) card and a Foreign ID card (TIE), airline staff told him that they were no longer valid following the UK’s exit from the EU on January 1st.

Duncan recorded a video interview with a British expat couple who said they were “absolutely gutted” by the situation. The woman told Duncan that “my husband is in need of urgent medical care” and that “Spain is home”. Despite having all their required documents, the couple was not allowed to board their flight.

The British Embassy in Madrid responded to Duncan’s tweets, saying: “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.”


The embassy made a Facebook post saying it has received several similar complaints about post-Brexit travel confusion. It said that the embassy has requested “greater flexibility” from the Spanish government and have highlighted these recent cases of confusion to Madrid.


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Oisin is an Irish writer based in Seville, the sunny capital of Andalucia. After starting his working life as a bookseller, he moved into journalism and cut his teeth as a reporter at one of Ireland's biggest news websites. Since joining Euro Weekly News in November, he has enjoyed covering the latest stories from Seville, Spain and further afield - with special interests in crime, cybersecurity, and European politics. Anyone who can pronounce his name first try gets a free cerveza...

3 COMMENTS

  1. Stupidity incarnate.
    British ‘Residents of Spain’ are people who live there permanently and carry a Spanish Residency card that attests to that. Both the Spanish Government and the British Embassy in Madrid confirm this.
    Where does some boneheaded airline employee get off, telling these people they can’t return home TO SPAIN?? Whoever it was that caused these folk such upset, shock, inconvenience and expense should be sacked.

  2. One wonders about Artificial intelligence ruling over the check in ‘human’ employee reduced to being merely dependent on the technology, with no manual way of overriding the rejected ID. It could well be that the biometric passport is not compatible with the NIE (still valid) document but is compatible with the new post Brexit biometric TIE. Something else in this mess that nobody bothered to anticipate.

  3. If the airline were wrong, which it sounds that they were, then each affected passenger should sue them not just for the costs involved but also mental stress. It is their job to know this stuff and keep fully up to date with the regulations. This is crucial, yet basic stuff. Shameful lack of common sense and ‘computer says no’ mentality.

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