British tour operator Neilson to bring 40,000 new passengers to the Lleida-Alguaire Airport

The ski vacation tour operator plans to operate 6 flights a week from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Dublin and Belfast to the Lleida-Alguaire Airport. This new airport serves Lleida city as well as Lleida's Pyrenees.

CNA / Paula Mateu

November 18, 2010 12:08 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- The Catalan Ministry of Territorial Policy and Public Works reached an agreement with the British tour operator Nielson where the company will operate flights from the UK to the Lleida-Alguaire airport for the next 5 years. Nielson will bring 40,000 passengers from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Dublin and Belfast to Catalonia for ski vacations. According to the Ministry, the economic impact for the territory will be some 20 million euros. Nielson will operate 6 flights a week from December to March. They are pulling out of the Tolosa airport after 17 years of business there. The agreement establishes an airport tax reduction of 100% in its first year of operation. which will gradually decrease for a 5-year period. Afterwards, there will no longer be tax reductions.

The 19th of December of 2011 will be a historic day for the Lleida-Alguaire airport, with the arrival of the first flight from the British tour operator Nielson. The ‘Active Holiday’ vacation package is being offered by Thomas Cook, one of the most important tourism companies in the UK. Nielson will bring 20,000 skiers (40,000 passengers) per season to spend a week in the Pyrenees. Six flights a week will take off from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Dublin and Belfast for 14 weeks from December to March. The Catalan Ministry of Territorial Policy and Public Works says that the economic impact as a result of the offer will be 20 million euros, about 1,000 euros per skier in ski passes, restaurants, hotels and stores.

According to the Catalan Director of Ports, Airports and Coasts, Oriol Balaguer, the Ministry’s agreement with Nielson supports the proposed airport expansion project. The project would include a platform enlargement, new terminal and parking lot, but would not affect the runway. With an estimated 7-month installation period, the works are budgeted between 15 and 20 million euros. Balaguer has no doubts that the political parties to come out of the upcoming election will get the expansion underway and continue supporting the Lleida-Alguaire airport.

In addition, Balaguer added that the agreement will open the door for future tour operators to do business at the airport, a key element in the airport’s business plan. Balaguer says that the Catalan administration is currently working with Russia, England and Ireland in the hopes of carrying out similar agreements. The programme and development director for Nielson, Trevor De Villiers, and Balaguer both believe that the Lleida-Alguaire airport could be the “hub” of the Pyrenees, affecting not only Catalonia, but also Aragon and Andorra. De Villiers said that they have already received a lot of support for the agreement from the Andorra Government.

Switching from Tolosa to Lleida

After almost two decades of activity, Nielson will no longer operate flights to the Tolosa airport. The airport has been Nielson’s Pyrenees base until now. De Villiers stated that the switch from Tolosa to Lleida is spurred by climatic reasons. He also highlighted that the switch is intended to be an important impulse for the development of Pyrenees tourism in the Spanish State. 

The agreement establishes a 100% tax reduction for Nielson’s first year of operation. The reduction will gradually decrease for a period of 5 years, from 80%, to 60%, to 40% to a final 20%. Afterwards, they will no longer receive a reduction.

De Villiers stated that the company hopes to fly the Airbus-330 into the Lleida airport. Therefore, the platform enlargement is necessary in order to accommodate the airplanes.

New perspectives

According to Balaguer, the Catalan Government hopes to soon operate cargo flights out of Lleida. However, he assured that the plan is still in its initial stages, as managing cargo traffic is more complicated than passenger traffic. The cargo would include mail and small packages. The Government is currently analysing the necessities for this service.