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Barcelona airport is strengthened with new flights, no strikes planned, and a future of decentralised management

The strike threatened by Spanish airport staff was finally cancelled as an agreement was reached between the ministry and trade unions. Air Berlin announced a flight increase in Barcelona: 38 flights per week will link the Catalan capital with Düsseldorf. The Spanish Minister for Transport insisted that the tender process to manage the airport will be issued before the end of the year.

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17 March 2011 11:35 PM

by

ACN / Gaspar Pericay Coll

Madrid / Barcelona (ACN). - After some days of uncertainty, Barcelona Airport has a positive future ahead. The strike planned in all Spanish airports, which was covered by media across Europe, was cancelled. Trade unions had called for 22 days of strike action as a reaction to the partial privatisation of the Spanish Airport Authority (AENA), which owns and manages all the airports in Spain as well as aerial navigation. In a long negotiation process that finished on Wednesday at five in the morning, the trade unions and the Spanish Government reached an agreement through which all the strikes were cancelled. The agreement \u201Csecures labour peace for the next few years\u201D, stated the Spanish Minister for Transport, José Blanco. More positive news for Barcelona Airport is today\u2019s announcement by Air Berlin to increase its flights and destinations. The German company will increase the frequency of its flights linking Barcelona and Düsseldorf, going from the current 28 to 38 per week. In addition, passengers will be able to fly to San Francisco from Barcelona; the American destination will be offered by the German company through flights going through Düsseldorf. Air Berlin is already offering connections to Los Angeles, New York and Cancun (Mexico) in a similar fashion. In addition, today the Spanish Minister for Transport, José Blanco, confirmed that the public tender on the management of Barcelona and Madrid airports will be issued before the end of 2011. Abertis and Ferrovial already have already shown interest.


The privatisation of AENA

Due to political pressures from Catalan public administrations and business sector, and especially owing to the economic crisis, the Spanish Government decided to allow for private capital in the Spanish Airport Authority (AENA). The Spanish Government decided to privatise 49% of it and the state will keep the other 51% of the shares. However, the two main airports in Spain \u2013Madrid-Barajas and Barcelona-El Prat\u2013 will be treated separately and will be managed by the private sector, in collaboration with local powers. It is expected that this decision will give more freedom to the Barcelona Airport to set its own tariffs, offer destinations and manage its facilities and infrastructure. AENA had favoured Madrid-Barajas in the last number of years, to build a single hub in Spain, to the detriment of Barcelona-El Prat. It is expected that private management will be a welcome boost to Barcelona Airport and transform it into an intercontinental hub. Concentrating a higher number of destinations and frequencies with European airports is the first step to then offer intercontinental flights. It is the strategy of Spanair, for instance, which has Barcelona as its strategic hub. Air Berlin\u2019s announcement follows this line as well. However, trade union strikes could endanger these plans, as Air Berlin\u2019s President for Spain and Portugal, Alvaro Middelman, confirmed. His airline suffered many cancellations due to the strike announcement, as well as a slowdown in new bookings.

The 22 days of strike action announced by AENA workers unions and planned for the busy Easter holidays and summer season scared away many European passengers. A definitive agreement was reached on Wednesday between AENA and the trade unions, and all the strikes and protests were cancelled. The unions called for strike action fearing that with AENA\u2019s privatisation their working conditions would worsen, despite the fact that AENA had not announced any changes. Finally, AENA and the unions agreed to extend the current collective agreement on wages and working conditions from 2014 to 2018. In addition, AENA gave a guarantee that even with private capital, staff will be maintained. The Spanish Minister for Transport stressed that the conditions for AENA privatisation are now slightly tougher regarding human resources. However, he wanted to add that on the other hand, AENA and thus all Spanish airports, including Barcelona and Madrid, will have \u201Clabour peace for many years\u201D. The announcement is a relief for the tourist sector and for passengers, who can now travel to Spain without fearing being stranded at the airport.

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  • Álvaro Middelman, Air Berlin President for Spain and Portugal in a recent press conference (by ACN)

  • Álvaro Middelman, Air Berlin President for Spain and Portugal in a recent press conference (by ACN)