A DEAL struck between the socialist PSOE and the far-left Sumar party to form Spain’s next government includes environmental plans that would cut domestic flights on routes where there is a rail alternative with a duration of less than two and a half hours.
At the moment there are no high speed rail connections with any airports in Spain- the first being planned for Madrid in 2026.
Domestic routes are seen as essential for some carriers such as Iberia or Air Europa, as they act as links to trips to other international destinations, especially Latin America and the United States.
There are few routes that would be hit under the two and a half route- with the exception of Madrid.
These services are Madrid-Barcelona, Madrid-Malaga, Madrid-Valencia, Madrid-Alicante and Madrid-Sevilla.
It’s been calculated that those routes catered for nearly 3.5 million passengers travelling in both directions last year.
Crucially, 1,716,000 passengers used the Madrid-Barcelona air bridge; more than half a million travelled on the route that connects the capital to Malaga; nearly 400,000 between Madrid-Sevilla; 308,797 for Madrid-Valencia and 280,000 for Madrid-Alicante.
In total, they do not account for even 1% of the 240 million travellers who passed through Spanish airports last year.
Few details have been given about the PSOE-Sumar measure except for a commitment to promote the reduction of domestic flights with rail alternatives, ‘except in cases of connection with hub airports that link with international routes’.
The Ministry of Transport told the ABC newspaper that for the choice of the affected routes ¡a technical study will be carried out to gauge any impact from a broad perspective(connectivity, environmental, etc.)’.
One major issue is the lack of high-speed AVE trains linking Spanish airports with the AVE set to reach Madrid airport in 2026 with a maximum of two trains per hour.
Airlines have calculated that they need between eight and ten to be able to replace short flights.
There is also a concern that passengers will look elsewhere to getting abroad according to the president of the Association of Airlines, Javier Gandara.
“The passengers who fly on these domestic routes are connecting passengers, who fly, for example, from Valencia to New York but via Madrid; if short flights are reduced, these customers will continue to fly to those destinations but from other European hubs, so they will end up polluting more, while connectivity and competitiveness in the long haul of our country is reduced,” said Gandara.
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