Business 03/04/2021

Easter Week with only 2,000 flights in El Prat

The main airlines operating in Barcelona focus efforts on the summer season

2 min
El Prat airport, in an archive image.

BarcelonaOn Good Friday, the busiest day of Easter at El Prat airport, only 230 commercial flights have been raised or landed in Barcelona. The 2021 departure operation by air has been, as expected, low key. Unlike last year - in full home lockdown and with mobility halted except for repatriation flights - the airlines have had little margin to reschedule routes, but the reality is that from Friday 26 March to Monday 5 April El Prat will only host about 2,100 operations. According to data provided by the airport manager Aena, of these flights, around 950 (45%) are domestic and the remaining 1,150 (55%) will be for international routes, mainly to European capitals.

The aviation sector has resumed this week the activity linked to tourism, but the efforts of the companies, aware that the trips will still be anecdotal, are focused on the summer. Compared with the last pre-pandemic Easter, that of 2019, the traffic of these days in El Prat is still 80% lower than usual. In the first two months of the year, the infrastructure has not yet reached 10,000 operations and barely 700,000 passengers have flown, a fall of almost 90%. In fact, the computation of the first year of pandemic made the infrastructure return to data recorded in 1995.

The pulse in El Prat is measured mostly through its main airline. Vueling sources admit that the company has not scheduled more flights for Easter, in addition to those it had prepared for the corridors between the Balearic Islands and Germany. The change of script in the country led by Angela Merkel, which has once again tightened restrictions, has meant that this week the arrival of German tourists in the state has been rather residual. "We are awaiting the evolution of the pandemic and the political decisions that have to be taken", explained the company based in El Prat.

The forecasts for the summer are still made in a climate of great uncertainty, but for now the Catalan airline prepares its engines with the addition of new domestic routes and some international routes for the warmer season. From April 7, Vueling will reinforce more frequently the 15 connections that are asked for the most, such as Palma or Ibiza, all of them with origin or destination in Barcelona. In addition, it has also made a commitment to fill the gap in routes with the Nordic countries, where the measures against the pandemic are more lax, incorporating destinations such as Helsinki and Copenhagen. Even so, the company is currently working with only 30% of the operations that were in place in 2019.

At the end of March, Ryanair announced a first draft of its summer network. The low cost irish airline plans to operate a total of 582 routes with 60 aircrafts. The company does not specify what volume would be concentrated in Barcelona, but recently announced three new flights from El Prat to Eindhoven and Maastricht (Netherlands) and Odessa (Ukraine). The British EasyJet also reveals in dribs and drabs which destinations it will offer from June onwards. "Every time restrictions are lifted we see that there is an underlying demand for travel", said Javier Gandara, the company's general manager in Spain.

Recovering international connections

While the industry is confident of recovering much of its domestic and European flights this summer, the situation for intercontinental flights is very different. After the onslaught of the health crisis, El Prat has come to offer only 16 long-haul routes to 13 destinations, although this 2021 has started with the reactivation of strategic connections for business travel as Singapore, Miami and Marrakech.