British expats flying to Spain are stopped from boarding BA flight

British expats flying home to Spain are stopped from boarding BA flight from Heathrow to Madrid after airline staff claimed their ID documents are no longer valid

  • Nine passengers were not allowed to board on the flight to Madrid on Saturday   
  • British journalist and photographer Max Duncan reported the incident on Twitter
  • The Embassy replied to his tweet saying ‘This should not be happening’

A group of British expats living in Spain were stopped from boarding a flight to Madrid after airline staff informed them their residency papers were no longer valid following Brexit.

Nine passengers were prevented from boarding the Iberia/BA flight from London Heathrow to Madrid on Saturday night, when airline staff told them their pre-Brexit ID documents had become invalid. 

The incident took place on January 2, even though both the Spanish and British governments have agreed the Foreign National Identification (NIE) document and the new Foreign ID Card (TIE) remain valid. 

Nine British passengers were barred from boarding on a Iberia/ BA flight to Madrid on Saturday night

Among them was Madrid-based  British journalist and photographer Max Duncan, who reported the incident on Twitter, after he was told that his Spanish Foreign National Identification (NIE) card and a Foreign ID card (TIE) were no longer valid following Brexit on January 1. 

The Embassy replied to Duncan’s tweet 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.’ 

Mr Duncan also recorded a video interview with a distressed couple that wasn’t allowed on the flight. 

A couple said they ‘were gutted’ after airline staff told them they weren’t allowed on the flight

The woman said:’ We arrived here at the airport today and we were told we are not allowed to fly because we have the wrong residency card. 

‘We were told we have to have the TIE card. We are absolutely gutted.

‘We are going home, Spain is home. 

‘My husband is in urgent need of medical care. 

Another couple was told at the check-in desk the green NIE card was no longer valid. 

The man said when they contacted the embassy they were told by staff that they had received a lot of calls about the confusion.  

Another couple was told the green NIE card was invalid following Brexit on January 1

On a Facebook post the British Embassy in Madrid said it has received similar complaints due to post-Brexit confusion and said it has requested ‘greater flexibility’ from the Spanish Government  and have highlighted the recent cases to the Spanish authorities.    

The Spanish government announced last year that  British expats in Spain would be given a new ID card instead of the residency paper. 

According to the Spanish authorities British nationals who were residing in Spain before 31 st December 2020 have obtained the rights set out in the Withdrawal Agreement and can use either the green residency document or the new residence document (TIE).   

The Spanish authorities have confirmed British nationals were allowed to travel with the green residency document or the new residence document (TIE)

Travel advice suggests that UK nationals can exchange their paper residence document for the new TIE but you they are not obliged to.  

Spain have announced Covid-19 restrictions for those travelling from the UK until January 19 with the exception of Spanish nationals and those legally resident in Spain.

Currently there are more than 300.000 British residents in Spain.  

According to Spain’s Secretary of State for Migration the number of UK citizens with Spanish residence permits increased by 5.8 percent from June 2019 to June 2020, a rise of 19,977 British residents.


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