Bye bye Spanair

As I advanced last night, Spanair collapsed yesterday, stranding at least 23,000 passengers who have turned up at airports only to be told “sorry, we’ve gone bust”.

The company will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday, but as from 2am this morning it cancelled all flights, as it was unable to meet its fuel bill, and informed the Spanish flight authorities that it was unable to meet passenger requirements. It’s the 15th Spanish airline to go bust since 2000, you’d think AENA would know the drill by now. Of course, they don’t normally go under with such drama. Quantum, the Balearic Islands regional airline, quietly stopped its only flight in 2010 “on a temporary basis” and now just employs a few old boys on a government pension without actually operating anything. But it allows the Balearic Islands to pretend they’ve still got a regional airline.

I’ve always had a quiet liking for Spanair, ever since the “good old days” of the late 90’s when they were the only competition around to Iberia, and offered better flights, with more comfortable seats and better food, than the rackety old turboprop crates of Ibera. Ah well. At least none of those turboprops ever flipped over on takeoff killing everyone on board. Ah hem.

2,000 jobs are likely to go at the airline, plus at least another 1,300 jobs at Newco, which had the contract for ground maintainence, plus all the others (unions are still calculating).

Spanair workers at airports across Spain have had their security permissions revoked by the authorities, as they no longer need access to high security areas of airports.

Vueling, Iberia and Air Europa have all offered “emergency rescue flights” to the passengers grounded over the weekend, offering alternate flights for 60€ domestic, 90€ to the Canary Isles and 100€ for international flights. Spanair should, according to EU rules, refund this money to passengers at a later date, although with the debts the airline has racked up, it’s difficult to see where they’d get the cash from.

Consumer organisations say that passengers should be covered by EU rules governing cancellation of flights, and have criticised the lack of information being given to passengers about their rights. In a number of airports, including Palma, “chaos reigned” as passengers were unable to find a single Spanair representative who could tell them what was going on.

AENA has from early this morning been deploying a special taskforce, with waiting rooms and free telephones, for affected passengers, although the information they are giving is little more than “buy another ticket or don’t fly, primo“.

Spanair sucked up at least 140 million euros from Catalunya and Barcelona townhall in the last decade, but with falling passenger numbers, confidence rocked by the 2008 Barajas-Madrid crash that killed over 150 passengers and rising fuel costs, the airline needed a saviour. Qatar airlines on Thursday pulled out of a 150 million euro deal to buy 49% of the airline – Friday, it went under.

The final missive from Spanair came on Twitter at 11pm last night: “Nos despedimos no sin antes ofrecer nuestras más sinceras disculpas a los afectados y agradecer la confianza depositada. A todos, gracias“.

“We say goodbye, but not before offering our most sincere apologies to those affected and we thank you for your confidence deposited [in us]. Thank you, to everyone”.

On the plus side, it distracted everyone from the news that Spanish unemployment is now at record levels, at 5,2 million euros (1 out of every three Andaluz is unemployed!), with the government admitting the unemployment rate will continue to rise at least until 5,5 million by the end of the year, Spain being downgraded another two notches by Fitch, the current Director General of Work at the Junta de Andalucía being arrested for giving false pensions to his mates (the ERE scandal continues!) and municipal workers in Jerez de la Frontera rioting in the street over unpaid wages (riot police were called in and charged twice at the workers).

Hey ho.


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