PEDRO Sanchez has come under fire this week after news emerged that a €53 million SEPI bailout has been given to the obscure Plus Ultra airline.
Critics from opposition parties such as the PP, have accused the government of inappropriate spending and political profiteering after ‘giving away’ the substantial amount.
The PP’s objection comes thanks to Plus Ultra’s unique and niche operations, and their minute stake in the Spanish airline market.
Opened in 2011 with it’s first flight in 2015, the small airline operates just four rented Airbus A340 aircraft, three of which according to VozPopuli, were returned to their respective owners in 2019.
Its only destinations are South America, with destination in Guayaquil, Quito, Caracas and Lima operating out of the Tenerife airport of Barajas.
Market figures show that it carried 156,139 passengers in 2019 on 823 flights, putting it at 166th in Spain’s operating airlines, equating to just a 0.1% market share.
Despite this, the airline has become the second airline to receive the grant after Air Europa were saved with a €475 million grant last year.
Mario Cortés, the PP deputy, did not hold back when she questioned the Ministry of Finance on the matter in a cabinet meeting this week.
“I struggle to understand why an airline that takes less passengers in a month than taxi services and employs less staff than some Costa del Sol hotels bars and nightclubs receives such a substantial handout if there is not something else going on.” he said.
The ministry ensures that Plus Ultra has a valid turnover of over just €100 million in 2019, and employs 350 direct and 2,500 indirect jobs.
The PP is concerned that the airlines links to South America, has led Sanchez to use the company as a bargaining tool with the Maduro leadership currently operating in Venezuela.
This concern is also bolstered by the fact that one of the majority shareholders in the company, Ibrahim Issa, has strong links to Maduro and the Chavista regime.
In a statement by Plus Ultra, they reassure that they are a 100% Spanish company and have stakeholders across the world from numerous nationalities.
At the same time, the Ministry of Finance has assured that the company owes its place in the Spanish market thanks to the transportation of thousands of temp workers and Latin American migrants every year.
“Plus Ultra covers a scope of services in the market complementary to the services provided by larger airlines.” explained a Sanchez executive.