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  • Passenger Experience
27 February 2024

Getting Ready for Europe's Travel Authorization Scheme

Over the span of many years, the European Union (EU) has been preparing to introduce two new border management IT systems – the Entry/Exit Systems (EES) and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). These systems are designed to streamline the electronic administration of incoming non-EU .

The EES is set to facilitate border management by meticulously recording the entry and exit times and locations of non-EU nationals, calculating their authorized stay durations, and flagging overstayers or entry refusals. Once operational, the EES will replace the outdated practice of manual stamping of travel documents by border authorities, ushering in a new era of efficiency and accuracy. While this aims to enhance security by pre-screening visitors, it imposes additional bureaucratic hurdles for travellers who previously enjoyed visa-free access. Similarly, the ETIAS will be crucial for European countries to process travel information of , non-EU nationals to help them assess security and illegal immigration.

Latest developments of EES and ETIAS


Despite encountering several delays due to the intricate technical requirements and the need to secure agreements among various European member states, the long-awaited implementation is now finally on the horizon. It is anticipated that the EES will roll out across 29 European countries in Q3 of 2024, followed by the implementation of ETIAS, applying to 30 countries, in Q2 of 2025.

How will it impact the airline industry?


Given the significant role that European countries play in global air traffic, the introduction of these two systems means a monumental change for the entire aviation industry. While in the long run they will bring forth an abundance of new opportunities for carriers, such as the utilization of interactive APIs for passenger queries and removing the need to check the visa stickers manually, they also present challenges, particularly during the initial phase when EES coverage is not comprehensive. Is the industry sufficiently prepared for the beginning of EES and ETIAS? How should stakeholders prepare for this transformative shift? Below, we delve into the potential challenges related to document check .

  • Limited scope of EES

During the initial phase of EES implementation, only visa-required nationals holding single or double-entry short-stay visas will fall within the system's view. Many commonly encountered passenger groups, including those with a multiple-entry short-stay visa, long-stay visa, EU residence permit, and specific categories like transit passengers, stateless and refugee passengers, seafarers, airline crew, and Laissez-passer holders, are not covered by the EES. As per the current schedule, multi-entry visas, residence permits, and transit visas will be incorporated into the system during the latter half of 2026. According to regulation, airlines are mandated to consult the EES for passengers within the scope. However, when a passenger falls outside the EES scope, carriers must employ alternative methods of verification, leading to additional time and workload in handling passengers’ eligibility.

  • Ambiguous responses from EES

To perform an EES verification, airlines must provide specific, mandatory passenger data. However, the responses returned from the system currently lack the granularity and clarity that airline agents will be looking for.  Based on the passenger data, the EES generates three distinct responses: OK, NA, or NOK EES. These responses are not detailed enough or fully reliable to act upon – especially when considering that airlines could be faced with a genuine “NOT OK”, or a “NOT OK” in the case where the airline has failed to flag a passenger that is out of scope. In both the NA and NOK EES responses, manual verifications will still be required, only adding to the process time for agents. For airlines to continue operating efficiently, the EES will have to be improved significantly, or complemented by other solutions. Timatic is working towards finding complementary solutions to the interactions with EES to help maintain airline operational efficiency.

Important Note: The EES response solely confirms the validity of the held visa; it does not determine whether the passenger should be allowed to board. The final decision rests with the carrier. Additionally, entry requirements for a country encompass various components, including travel documents, visa regulations, health protocols, and customs guidelines. Thus, even if a passenger receives an “OK” from the EES, it does not guarantee ultimate entry. Carriers must also verify other requirements specified by the destination EU country

  • Schengen visa verification and online check-in

Given the extra EES check and the limited coverage of the EES for visas, airlines are likely to face an increased need for manual checks to verify visa types and validity. Consequently, this could lead to check-in congestion. Currently, the standard method for identifying a multiple-entry Schengen visa involves examining the “Number of entries” indicated on the Schengen visa sticker or scanning the machine-readable zone of the visa.

  • Transition and grace periods for ETIAS

Another challenge lies in ETIAS. After its launch, all visa-exempt non- EU nationals, such as those from the US and Canada, will be required to obtain a travel authorization valid for three years. This is similar to the ESTA for the USA and the ETA for Canada. While this transition promises to streamline processes in the long run, it introduces immediate challenges. are not included by ETIAS agreements, which requires separate checks for them.

Additionally, during the six-month transition period, the ETIAS simply returns an OK response to all ETIAS eligible travellers, without the ability to verify the ETIAS. This will be followed by a six-month grace period, where first-time entries are also exempt from holding an ETIAS. The transitional and grace phases will require carriers to continue checking the European visa regimes alongside ETIAS, complicating the compliance process, and emphasizing the need to continue to rely on their existing document checks.

Preparing for the introduction of EES and ETIAS

Be sure to follow the official updates of EES and ETIAS developments.

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