Government proposes using Barcelona airport runways for both takeoffs and landings in summer

Plan to allow 90 flights per hour, as opposed to current 78,  from 10am to 2pm in July and August

A flight departing from Barcelona Airport
A flight departing from Barcelona Airport / Àlex Recolons / Arxiu ACN
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

April 11, 2024 01:37 PM

April 11, 2024 05:42 PM

The Catalan government has proposed a massive change in Barcelona airport's operations. The cabinet has suggested using the two existing parallel runways independently, allowing flights to land and take off from the same runway and not limiting operations to each runway.

The plan is for this operation to take place four hours a day, from 10 am to 2 pm, in July and August, allowing 90 flights per hour, as opposed to the current limit of 78 flights per hour, as first reported by the Spanish La Vanguardia newspaper, and later confirmed by the Catalan News Agency (ACN).

The 90 flights each hour will be the limit for the environmental impact not to be breached. However, this will affect the Gavà neighbors in acoustic pollution. Residents have always urged authorities to ensure the current segregated runway operation stays in place, making take offs only possible from the runway closer to the sea (24L/06R) and landings using the one closest to civilization (24R/06L).

Barcelona airport has a third runway (02/20), which crosses the infrastructure and is only used at night. To minimize noise pollution, planes land on a trajectory flying from the sea into the city.

La Vanguardia reports that Esquerra Republicana, the solo governing party in Catalonia, plans to implement these plans only in summer when the airport reaches its maximum capacity for international flights.

"Increasing the number of flight operations in Barcelona airport is possible without the need of an airport expansion or affecting the surroundings," Catalan president Pere Aragonès said during a speech on Thursday morning.

For him, the proposal is "rigorous" and can "be in place in a very short time period."

Neighbors, they say, would be able to benefit from soundproofing aids for their residences.

"For every soundproofing paid by AENA in the Barcelona airport area, there have been 258 paid in Madrid airport, therefore this cannot be a problem," Aragonès added.


Spanish minister rejects new plan

Spanish transport minister Óscar Puente rejected the proposal a few hours after it was first published in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio radio station.

"It attempts an already existing agreement between both cabinets that prevented these decisions from being taken," Puente said during the interview.

For him, the idea is "a short-term proposal" that will "worsen the acoustic impact of the airport" and, therefore, "affect" the neighbors.

Gavà against new plan

Meanwhile, Gemma Badia, Gavà mayor, considered the proposal "absurd."  During a press conference, she complained that they were aware of the news via the media and not in a meeting.

"I do not understand the moment nor how they announced it. We have always been in favor of dialogue," she said.


Badia announced that Gavà city council has not been able to speak with Aragonès or the Catalan territory minister, Esther Capella, but that AENA, the Spanish industry ministry, and the Socialists party in Catalonia -the political group from which she is part-, have shown their support to Gavà.

"We have been through some moments when it was impossible to have a conversation, follow the news, or watch a movie... You would be walking by the beach and a two-aisle plane would fly over you, and it does not make sense that in 2024 we are back on the same spot," she added.

For her, the proposal does not take into account the "mental, physical, and acoustic tranquility of the citizens."

Gavà "wants to put into value the economic promotion of the city and Catalonia; we need a competitive airport and acoustic peace," she added.


Airport expansion controversy

The runaway closer to the sea is the shortest runway, which is why there has been controversy over airport expansion during the last few years. 

AENA, Spain's airport manager, announced its intentions to expand the runway to welcome 'wide body' airplanes, making international travel easier from the Catalan capital.

However, expanding this runway will impact the La Ricarda natural park, which Esquerra Republicana has already rejected based on environmental concerns.