The Lleida-Alguaire Airport will operate flights to outside the Schengen Area this winter
British skiers are able to access the Catalan Pyrenees as of December with direct flights to Lleida Airport. The Spanish Government has authorised the arrival and departure of non-Schengen flights, coming from the likes of the United Kingdom and Russia. However, the authorisation’s delay forced a Russian tour operator to cancel the flights for this season and postpone them until next year.
Madrid (ACN).- The Lleida-Alguaire Airport will begin operating flights from outside the European Schengen Area, as a border control is open as of Thursday December 1st. Therefore, Lleida-Alguaire is now permitted to receive and send direct flights to the United Kingdom, Ireland, or Russia, or any other destination. Therefore, the British tour operator Thomas Cook will be able to start its flights and British skiers will be able to go to the ski resorts of the Catalan Pyrenees through Lleida-Alguaire Airport. However, the authorisation came too late for a Russian tour operator, who has decided to wait until next season to commence its flights. In fact, hosting a border point at Lleida Airport has been a long standing request from the Catalan Government, the Lleida Provincial Council and the Lleida City Hall. Their aim has always been to attract a large number of tourists and skiers to the Catalan Pyrenees’ ski resorts. Despite celebrating the news, many Catalan authorities have expressed their surprise for the Spanish Government’s long delay in issuing the authorisation.
Lleida-Alguaire, an open door to the Pyrenees and its ski resorts
Lleida Airport is located in western Catalonia and just a one-hour drive from the ski resorts of the Catalan Pyrenees, such as Baqueira Beret, Boí Taüll and Espot-Port-Ainé. Tour operator Thomas Cook has wanted to take advantage of the proximity of the airport to the slopes and bring 16,000 British skiers to the Catalan Pyrenees this winter. However, Lleida-Alguaire Airport needed its border control to be open before December 19th, the date that Thomas Cook has planned to start operations. The Catalan Minister for Territory and Sustainability, Lluís Recoder said that if the Spanish Government had not signed the agreement, the Catalan Government “would have had to pay considerable compensation” to the British tour operator.
The Spanish Government’s authorisation coming with delay
The Catalan Government, who runs the airport, had already requested authorisation from the Spanish Government in 2009. The authorisation did not come until this Thursday. It was too late for another tour operator from Russia. They could not run the risk and have decided to start operations next winter. 6,000 Russian skiers could have arrived in Catalonia in the winter months.
The Spanish Minister for the Presidency, Ramón Jáuregui, who is responsible for signing the agreement, justified the delay claiming it was due to a “complex negotiation” as it “needed the intervention of several Ministries”, some of which delayed their reports.
Criticism from Catalonia because of the Spanish Government delay
The Catalan Minister for Transport criticised the “long and unjustified delay” of the Spanish Government. He stressed that the Catalan Administration had already requested authorisation in 2009. However, he said the Spanish Government had not started the process until “a few months ago”.
Joan Reñé, President of Lleida Provincial Council, criticised the delay and asked the Spanish Government to speed up the process when issuing similar authorisations. Both Reñé and Recoder added that the airport was ready to operate a long time ago. Reñé had hoped the decision had not been made so close to the start of the ski season, as it had caused undue stress to the business sector.