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I was flying with a minor airline called SmartWings which didn't have online check-in, on a route between Spain and Czech Republic. At the check-in desk, my friend presented his (non-Annex II) passport without a visa (he had a residency permit) and the airline employee requested that he show his visa as well. As this was an intra-Schengen flight, I tried to argue that no visas are needed and therefore the airline shouldn't demand to see them. However as we didn't want to fight it to the bitter end, my friend surrendered and showed his EU residency card.

So who was right in this situation? Do airlines have the right to demand to see visas on intra-Schengen flights?

Links to relevant EU/Schengen laws would be appreciated to avoid speculation.

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    @motoDrizzt I've flown within the Schengen a few times by simply flashing my driving license. Another couple of times I've flown without showing any ID at all, to any person in the airport. None of this happened on non-Schengen flights, where the airlines really are concerned about getting rejected passengers. – JonathanReez Nov 16 '16 at 10:32
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    @JonathanReez To enter the country, being in posession of a valid travel document and immigration credentials is still a requirement of many, if not most, Schengen countries. Lack of immigration control on intra-schengen borders only means that the requirement is not regularly verified, not that the requirement is not there. Although aiding or assisting illegal immigiration is also probably a criminal issue in most Schengen countries, there is however no general requirement that carriers verify the passengers immigration credentials on intra-schengen flights. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 16 '16 at 11:28
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    There are however exceptions currently in force. E.g. Swedish authorities currently require land and sea based carriers coming from Denmark and Germany to verify all passenger's immigration status before boarding buses, trains and ferries going to Sweden. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Nov 16 '16 at 11:30
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    I don't know (hence no answer) but what I can say is that the Schengen regulations don't say anything about that at all. They specify in great details what should happen at so-called external borders and put some (pretty vague and generic) constraints on what states can do at internal borders. If there is any rule that would forbid this, I think it would be found in consumer protection law or the like (at the EU level or at the national level). Not sure what those say. – Relaxed Nov 16 '16 at 16:52
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Do airlines have the right to demand to see visas on intra-Schengen flights?

Yes, they do; just like they also have the rights to weigh your bags, deny you boarding, ask you to move from an exit row or restrain you on board.

Although no visas are needed to travel within the Schengen zone, but you should have a means to show that you have rights to be in the zone, and one of those is a visa.


I am not a friend of this explanation. Bags and such are their business but playing "papers, please" needs to have a legal background, doesn't it?

No, it doesn't have to have a legal background. It is part of the conditions of carriage which you agree to when you purchase the ticket:

a) Prior to purchase of a ticket and boarding aircraft, the passenger shall on call of a carrier’s staff member or state authorities be obliged to identify him/herself and present the relevant travel documents, and answer questions of security nature, if appropriate, or submit the requested personal data to the eligible state authorities. Pursuant to government regulation, the carrier may be requested to submit passenger data or access these data.

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    I am not a friend of this explanation. Bags and such are their business but playing "papers, please" needs to have a legal background, doesn't it? – chx Nov 16 '16 at 9:45
  • @pnuts the fact that the aircraft is private property and the owner can ask to see pretty much whatever they want before you board it...? – Moo Nov 16 '16 at 14:15
  • @pnuts as I said, "pretty much whatever they want", and a visa does constitute "relevant travel documents" to the airline. You still need a valid Schengen visa to be within the Schengen area, so its still a "relevant travel document" regardless of whether the countries legally requires it to be checked at the border. This is belt and braces for the airline. – Moo Nov 16 '16 at 14:27
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The Schengen rules imply that governments may not conduct routine passport and visa checks for travel between member states, except in extraordinary circumstances and by invoking special procedures (which several member states have currently done due to the "refugee crisis").

Presumably this also mean that governments cannot require private transportation operators to conduct such checks (again, unless border controls have not been temporarily re-introduced).

However, the Schengen rules do not forbid private transportation operators from deciding for themselves that they want to conduct such checks for whichever ineffable reasons they might have. If there's anything that legally prevents an airline from demanding passports of their passengers on Schengen-internal flights, it would be found in national legislation of the state where the demand is made (or, potentially, the state where the ticket is bought or whose law otherwise apply to the contract), not in the general Schengen rules complex.

In the absence of any rules that restrict what airlines can do, they can do whatever they find to make business sense.

  • @pnuts: It looks like you're trying tor reply to the comment thread under Burhan Khalid's answer? – Henning Makholm Nov 16 '16 at 13:13
  • @pnuts: I am not claiming that such rules are, in fact, absent. All I'm staying is that they are not to be found in the Schengen rules complex, and one must look to national law (possibly national law about contract interpretation and consumer protection in relation to unreasonable standard-conditions-of-business) to find them. – Henning Makholm Nov 16 '16 at 14:04
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    @pnuts: If you want to phrase it in those terms, I'm saying that the question is too broad because the answer will depend on national law in the member state in question and the demanded "links to relevant EU/Schengen laws" will only be a collection of things that are not relevant to answering it. – Henning Makholm Nov 16 '16 at 14:28
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Being their planes and their business, unless they are not breaking a law they are allowed to pretty much everything they want.

Put the following two things together:

  1. Airlines are responsible for sending you back in case you can't enter the country you are flying in.

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  1. A Visa is not a magic object that teleports you back to your own country the same exact moment it expires.

Being inside a Schengen nation is not in itself a proof that you are allowed to be there: what if you entered illegally? Or what if your Visa is expired?

Without a preemptive check of your visa you could fly to a nation you are not allowed to go anymore, get caught at immigration, and sent back...and it will be an hassle for the airline company who allowed you to fly there.

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    "Airlines are responsible for sending you back in case you can't enter the country you are flying in." - not applicable within the Schengen. – JonathanReez Nov 16 '16 at 9:12
  • @JonathanReez But you are not inside Schengen if your visa is expired. Anyway, I quickly checked a thing, and I've a question: temporary residency permit or permanent residency permit? If the latter, they had no obligation to check. – motoDrizzt Nov 16 '16 at 9:19
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    Permanent resident. But how would they know without checking? :) – JonathanReez Nov 16 '16 at 9:35
  • @JonathanReez that's the reason I hate those kind of matters, it's always a mess :-D AFAIR, an EU residency permit should be attached inside the passport to show that you don't need a VISA. I think I'll delete the answer, too much of an headache :-D – motoDrizzt Nov 16 '16 at 9:51

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