Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Spanish Government Forbids International Flights to Barcelona

Barcelona-El Prat airport cannot operate flights to and from 23 countries because several international bilateral agreements signed by the Spanish government forbid them. These agreements, which establish priority for Madrid's Barajas airport, include one European country, six in Latin America, eleven in Africa and one in Oceania. This information has been garnered by the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce in a report analysing 80 bilateral treaties currently in force in Spain. Although 42 of these include Barcelona and 15 are open to include the airport if an airline shows interest, the report reveals that 23 treaties explicitly exclude Barcelona, of which 20 name Madrid-Barajas as the operational airport, and 13 of these consider the latter airport exclusively for operation of flights to and from the corresponding countries.

But this legal situation is not the only, and not even the main drawback to the growth of Barcelona airport. The heritage of Iberia as the Spanish flag-carrier and exclusive monopoly for regular flights for 40 years still weighs heavily, particularly with AENA, the State monopoly operator of Spanish airports, aerodromes and heliports, which depends on the Spanish government's Ministry of Public Works and Transport and manages not only the administration of civilian air transit, assignation of slots and navigation control, but also commercial operations, including all airport premises, offices, car parks, shops, bars and restaurants, etc.

The Spanish government says it is considering renegotiating the older treaties to remove the legal obstacles for certain Spanish airports "although this is not an easy process", according to the Ministry's sub-director of Air Transport. This makes clear that these obstacles exist, and even the sub-director admits that if an airport is not included in the government's bilateral treaties, it cannot open routes with the countries in question. It is not hard to come to the conclusion that the Spanish governments have had and have a distinct tendency to favour Madrid over Barcelona, whether directly and explicitly (via government treaties) or indirectly (via AENA).

From the article “El Prat té vetada la possibilitat de vols amb 23 països” (3/24: Catalan public television news service)