The close competition they have had in recent years Barajas and El Prat byBeing the most important airport in Spain will become uneven in the next five years. The Airport Regulation Document for the period 2022-2026 (DORA II), approved this week by the Minister council, points to the Madrid hub as the absolute protagonist of the recovery of the sector, leaving the Barcelona airfield in the background.
DORA II estimates that the Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport will transport 67.1 million passengers in 2026, almost 25% of the total network (282.5 million passengers). According to the document, Barajas will gain almost 27 million passengers between 2022 and 2026, when the Government expects Spanish airports to regain pre-crisis levels. The airport would also benefit from the first works related to the expansion of T4 and satellite T4 and the installation of the new processor in terminals 1, 2 and 3. Aena plans to invest 133 million in these projects between 2022 and 2026; Of this amount, 63.6 million will be disbursed only in 2026.
Figures that will make El Prat’s dream of surpassing Barajas impossible, something that was about to occur a few years ago. In 2020, the worst year in Aena’s history, the difference between the two barely exceeded 5 million passengers, but the Executive has drawn a scenario in which this distance widens every year, from 5.4 million passengers difference in 2022 to 11 million in 2026. That year the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat airport would add 56.06 million passengers, far from the 67.1 million expected for Barajas.
Of course, these figures are only estimates collected by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation at the DORA II. In this sense, the organization predicts that the major European economies will maintain a growth path in the coming years, which would encourage international tourism figures.
Whether these estimates are correct or not, the reality is that El Prat cannot grow much more in passenger numbers. The government Evidence in the document that the airport’s capacity, located at around 55 million passengers, will reach its peak in five years. A collapse that will also extend into the next decade due to the enlargement fiasco.
The project promised to increase the capacity of El Prat to 70 million passengers with an investment of 1,700 million euros, but discrepancies within the Generalitat regarding the environmental impact of the plan caused the central government to suspend the project. In principle, the plan would not be resumed for another five years, since sources from the Ministry of Transport influenced during the presentation of the DORA produced this week that this document serves to give “certainty” and, therefore, it will be very difficult to modify it. The Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, made mention of the frustrated expansion during the event, assuring that she is “saddened” by the “lost opportunity.”
In the sector, the cancellation of the millionaire project has also been a blow. The airlines, organized in the Air Lines Association (ALA), have publicly shown their “disappointment”, while recalling the collapses suffered by the airport before the pandemic. One of the most talked about took place in the summer of 2016, and was largely motivated by poor planning by Vueling.
There are also voices that questioned the impact of enlargement. «El Prat is conditioned by the acoustic problems in the neighboring towns, so to propose an intercontinental ‘hub’, as the government, It does not seem the most logical thing, and less if there is not an airline that is already willing to carry out this operation “, explains to this newspaper the aeronautical consultant Mikel Alcázar, who recalls that «No other European country comparable to Spain has two intercontinental hubs at the distance between Madrid and Barcelona».
There is another factor that will come into play shortly: Iberia’s purchase of Air Europa. An operation that, according to the IAG group company, will be vital to boost the connectivity of Barajas. «It makes a lot of sense that the international bet is Barajas and El Prat maintain its commitment to point-to-point flights that have made it grow so much ”, concludes Alcázar.