The start of the summer holidays in the UK were marked by long queues at the port of Dover, and furious British headlines blaming the French for the chaos.
Now the end of the holidays has seen similar scenes, this time in Calais where British holidaymakers reported long queues to pass through British passport control.
Although schools in France restarted on September 1st, most schools in the UK don’t return until this week, making this weekend the ‘return’ weekend for British holidaymakers, with high volumes of passenger traffic at Calais.
The problems were concentrated at the ferry port, with both P&O Ferries and DFDS advising passengers of queues of up to 90 minutes to get through UK border control.
#POCALAIS – Please be advised there are currently wait times of 60-90 minutes at UKborder controls. This is after check-in so please arrive at check-in at least 90 minutes before your booked departure to allow you to clear checks and get on your booked departure.
— P&O Ferries Updates (@POferriesupdate) September 4, 2022
Both ferry companies waived booking times to allow people to travel on the next sailing if they missed their departure time while waiting in the queue.
BBC journalist Tom Hourigan, caught up the chaos as he returned from a trip to France, reported that on Sunday only half of the UK border force booths were staffed.
The main problem seems to be that out of 18 available UK Border Force booths, 7 are shut (including the one on the far right obscured in this video by a tall vehicle) and some individual checks are taking up to 3 minutes 2/3 pic.twitter.com/UK8tDFirBz
— Tom Hourigan (@TomHourigan) September 4, 2022
Since Brexit, the process of travel in and out of France has become more complicated, with border control forces required to check and stamp passports of travellers.
In addition, there are different rules for people travelling with pets, and restrictions on the items that passengers can bring in to France.
At the start of the summer, the UK travel expert Simon Calder estimated that the enhanced checks now take a minimum of 90 seconds for a family of four travelling in the same car at a ferry port, compared to just a couple of second pre-Brexit.
Although this doesn’t sound like a lot, multiplied by many cars it can cause long delays.
The new travel rules have been in place since January 2021, but Covid-related travel bans meant that this summer has been the first time that we have seen the combination of normal passenger numbers and post-Brexit checks. It appears that both Dover and Calais ports have struggled to cope on their busiest weekends.