10 Spanish public airports served fewer than 1,000 passengers last month…

Despite it being summer, 10 Spanish public airports served fewer than 1,000 passengers last month, according to El Economista newspaper, which asks why these expensive, loss making airports aren’t closed.

Huesca-Pirineos is the worst performing airport in Spain, having lost 97,83% of its air traffic since last year. In July, it received just 9 passengers. It was built in 2011 at a cost of 60 million euros and was expected to serve 160,000 passengers a year. It has been criticised by workers and air traffic controllers for being rather badly designed, and causing several accidents since it opened.

Complaints about Huesca Pirineos airport (From this website)

Albacete airport isn’t much better, it got just 34 passengers, a drop of 95.2%.

Madrid-Cuatro Vientos got 245 passengers, which is actually an increase of 66.67% over last year. Vitoria airport dropped from 731 passengers in 2012 to just 277 this year.

Madrid-Torrejón airport was abruptly closed to civilian flights this Feb by order of the government, which transferred the 2,500 odd passengers it received monthly to Barajas.

Sabadell aerodrome and Son Bonet aerodrome, both of which were recently acquired by AENA, received just 280 and 454 passengers each. Sabadell airport, in private hands last year, has no figures for 2012. Son Bonet (in Mallorca), however, received just 1 passenger in 2012, so that’s a 454% increase since it went into public hands.

Cordoba airport received 669 passengers (down 4.97% over 2012 figures), Logroño got 745, a 64,11% drop. Algeciras heliport, opened in the middle of the recession to much criticism, had 846 passengers, 1270% up on last July’s figures (just 3 people).

Other public airports across the country have seen huge drops in passenger numbers. Valladolid airport has lost 35.21% of its traffic (it saw just 24.521 passengers last month); Badajoz has lost 52%, receiving just 4.083 passengers in July.

Spain is the EU country with the greatest number of operating public airports. It’s population of 46,5 million are serviced by 48 publicly owned and operated airports. The country has spent billions building airports that are on top of each other – Cordoba airport, for example, with just 669 passengers is 130km from the massive Malaga airport, which last month received over 1,5 million passengers. These smaller airports, despite being built to accommodate international flights, just can’t compete with their larger brothers.

Sabadell (280 passengers) is under 100km away from Barcelona’s international El Prat (over 3,8 million passengers). Son Bonet (454 passengers in July) is just round the corner from Mallorca International (3.4 million passengers in July).

And Huesca-Pirineos, built for 60 million euros in 2011 with capacity for 160.000 passengers a year, last year received only 2.781 passengers.

All of which doesn’t look good for Corvera airport in Murcia – built by the regional government at a cost of hundreds of millions- and which is just 35km from the San Javier airport, into which AENA has poured almost 50 million euros into renovation works over the last couple of years.

More from ElEconomista.es

7 Replies to “10 Spanish public airports served fewer than 1,000 passengers last month…”

  1. David,

    I am enjoying following up the history of some of the sites you listed.

    Up to 1959, Son Bonet was the commercial airport for Mallorca & Son San Juan was military, but was capable of being expanded & is now Palma International. Sabadell also has a long history, from 1919.

    Much as it pains me to say this, perhaps AENA needs a “Beeching” figure to rationalise the network.




  2. I wondered about that! Thanks for the update.
    Yes, I agree that a severe pruning of the network is necessary.

  3. Well…
    Cuatro Vientos does not generally admit passengers. It is a military airport used also by flying schools (only light aircrafts)
    Sabadell is basically and ‘aeroclub’ airport with amounts of light crafts flying for fun and acrobatic flying… so passengers can be pilot’s friends or similar. Similar for Son Bonet nowadays…
    I doubt Cordoba admit international fligths when it is a ‘not controlled’ aiport…
    Vitoria is a ‘cargo’ airport. Passengers received usually come from LEBB when there is bad weather there.
    Logroño and Badajoz are, basically, militar airports that offers also site for comercial flights
    It is certain that public expense in airports in Spain has been excesive (Ciudad Real, Castellon) but your post is largely far from be accurate. You have take some figures withouth even trying to undertand them.

  4. All public airports costing the taxpayers millions of euros, just because the politicians won’t close them down out of pride.
    Cuatro Vientos, according to AENA’s own stats, dropped from 73.086 passengers in 2003 to 37.586 in 2013, so it’s clearly not in demand – in fact, AENA have just announced they’re closing it to all flights and transforming it into a heliport only, and are trying to lease it to a private company.
    Sabadell is an airclub into which AENA has plowed over 20 million euros in the last 5 years, but from which it doesn’t make a penny. All the private companies in Sabadell have relocated to BCN, leaving the aerodrome empty.
    Last year, AENA spent 32 million euros upgrading Cordoba airport to accept large planes up to Airbus 320 size. AENA has blown over 100 million in the last 7 years on Cordoba airport.
    So, in these three airports alone, that’s well over 130 million euros spent on infrastructure upgrades in the last 7 years, despite the fact that they’re not necessary and close to much bigger and better airports.
    You think that’s a good spending of tax payers cash?

  5. Actually, Layo does have a point. Though there are some real no-brainers, like Castellon and Corvera, the picture is not as clear cut as you make it seem.

    Firstly, these figures all come from the midst of a recession, and since some airports have suffered catastrophic and sudden drops, these figures cannot be regarded as representative of what traffic would be in normal economic circumstances.

    Secondly, some of these airports (like Badajoz) serve regional cities with no other nearby facilities, and so even with low traffic can be regarded as essential services. I doubt the cost of La Gomera airport could be justified in terms of number of passengers, nor Ceuta heliport.

    Thirdly, military airports would still need tax payer money, so it actually makes sense to add a passenger terminal and share the facilities to help make them pay. San Javier did that with great success (though it is worth remembering that for years it was almost deserted), and I imagine in the long term, Albacete (also military) will also be successful, albeit on a smaller scale.. Dual use of military airports are also socially beneficial, reducing tensions and resentment of the military by making their infrastructure provide a public good, rather than being solely a burden, and reducing the perceived size of the military footprint.

    Finally, passengers numbers don’t necessarily make a profitable airport. Some airports general more traffic through freight and general aviation than they do through passengers, particularly secondary airports in big cities, where the main airports are hostile to GA and (to a lesser degree) cargo activities. Scheduled passenger routes make up only a small part of their business model, or even none at all. Some may also develop as corporate or short-haul airports in future, as they can offer a quicker and more efficient passenger experience – less security delays, short check in etc (like London City Airport).

    Not to say some stupid decisions were made, but a blanket judgment doesn’t help either.

  6. I think the trouble is that AENA, a public company which doesn’t publish detailed accounts, is forced to maintain many of these airports at huge public cost for no reason other than local politics. The lack of joined up thinking is obvious – just look at the duplication of San Javier against Corvera airport in Murcia. (Corvera isn’t AENA by the way).
    We’re only getting these paltry details now because of the privatisation of AENA, and once 60% is in private hands, we’re going to see some pretty drastic cost cutting across the board.

  7. It is beneficial that we are seeing more of AENAs figures, though the fact Covera is private should say it all about how privatization is very far from a solution, but rather just moves the profitable elements into private hands, but removes none of the corruption, nor the recourse to government funds when ambition, greed and a broken ethical compass all co-incide.

    The other thing that concerns me about the AENA privatization is precisely what will become of airports in remote/poorly served regions with the drastic cuts you mention. If, in order to guarantee access for remote/poorly served areas you retain their airports in the public sector, all you are doing is formalizing the process of privatizing profit and socializing losses, by eliminating the cross-subsidy from profitable airports – and thus increasing the tax payers loss in order to ensure the profitability of a private company.

    I see no good coming out of AENAs privatisation, and areas with unprofitable (or marginal) airports but are dependent on them either for tourism or general transport – or, like Almeria, both – are going to face the greatest uncertainty, alternating between closure and even greater mismanagement and corruption – and I fear we’ll see more of the same when RENFE gets the same “treatment”

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