RANKED: The busiest airports in Spain

Following news that Spain's tourism sector has almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels, The Local takes a look at the country's busiest airports.

RANKED: The busiest airports in Spain
Passengers queue at the Ryanair check-in counters at the Terminal 2 of El Prat airport in Barcelona on July 1, 2022. Photo: Pau BARRENA/AFP

Taking advantage of the lifting of travel restrictions, Spain welcomed 66.4 million foreign tourists in the first eleven months of 2022, a huge (138.9 percent) increase on 2021, but still 15 percent less than during the same period in 2019.

READ ALSO: Tourism in Spain bounces back to near pre-pandemic levels

Clearly, that means Spanish airspace (and crucially, its airports) were much busier in 2022 than they were in the previous pandemic-hindered couple of years. In 2020, the year the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in Spain, air traffic in the country decreased by a whopping 72.4 percent.

But new data released from Spain’s Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda shows that Spain’s airports welcomed 243.68 million passengers in 2022, 88.5 percent of the number in 2019.

December was a particularly strong month, with 17.89 million passengers, 98.1 percent compared to the same month in 2019.

According to the data, there were a total of 2.2 million aircraft operations in 2022, a recovery of 93.9 percent compared to 2019, and just over one million tons of goods were transported, 6.5 percent less than in 2019.

Of the passengers travelling through Spanish airports in 2022, 242.8 million were commercial passengers. Of this figure, 82.31 million travelled around Spain on domestic flights, 3.8 percent less than in 2019, and 160.5 million on international routes, 15 percent less.

But amid this wave of travel, which of Spain’s airports were the busiest in 2022?

Spain’s busiest airports

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas registered the most passengers in 2022, with a total of 50.6 million. This figure, however, represents a significant decrease of 18 percent compared to 2019.

In second place was Barcelona’s El Prat Airport, with 41.6 million passengers, a decrease of 21 percent from 2019; third was Palma de Mallorca, with 28,573,364 (-3.9 percent); then Málaga-Costa del Sol, with 18.4 million (-7.1 percent), Alicante-Elche’s Miguel-Hernández with 13.2 million (-12.3 percent).

This was followed by Gran Canaria, with 12.4 million total passengers (-6.4 percent); Tenerife South, with 10.8 million (-3.1 percent); Ibizia with 8.1 million, the same figure as 2019; and Valencia, also with 8.1 million passengers, a drop of 5 percent.

READ ALSO: How Wales fans swapped Qatar for Tenerife to enjoy a cheap and boozy World Cup

Busiest airport (total passengers)

  1. Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas – 50.6 million (-18 percent)
  2. Barcelona-El Prat – 41.6 million (-21 percent)
  3. Palma de Mallorca – 28.5 million (-3.9 percent)
  4. Málaga-Costa del Sol – 18.4 million (-7,1 percent)
  5. Alicante-Elche Miguel-Hernández – 13.2 million (-12.3)
  6. Gran Canaria -12.4 million (-6,4 percent)
  7. Tenerife Sur – 10.8 million (-3.1 percent)
  8. Ibiza – 8.1 million (no change)
  9. Valencia – 8.1 million (-5 percent)

2025 recovery

It could take a couple more years to fully recover to pre-pandemic air traffic levels. According to Aena’s five year plan, by the end of 2025, Spanish airports will have recovered to 2019 passenger levels. The company is also hoping to hit 282.5 million passengers by 2026.

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How Spain’s air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans

Many of Spain’s air traffic controllers have been called to strike over the next month. Find out which dates and which airports will be affected.

How Spain's air traffic control strike could hit your travel plans

The workers’ unions USCA and CCOO have called around 162 air traffic controllers working at privatised control towers around the country to organise walkouts throughout February, affecting 28.5 percent of all air traffic in Spain.

The walkouts began on Monday January 30th and will continue every Monday until February 27th during “all work shifts that begin between 00:00 and 24:00,” they stated. Specifically, the strike days will occur on February 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th.

The airports affected by the strike will be A Coruña, Alicante-Elche, Castellón, Cuatro Vientos (Madrid), El Hierro, Fuerteventura, Ibiza, Jerez, Lanzarote, La Palma, Lleida, Murcia, Sabadell, Seville, Valencia and Vigo.

The Ministry of Transport has set minimum services depending on the type of route, which reaches 100 percent for emergency flights, the transfer of citizens or foreigners guarded by police officers and the transport of post and perishable products.  

For commercial flights with routes originating or ending at non-peninsular airports, the minimum services range between 52 percent from Lleida to 84 percent from La Coruña, depending on the estimated occupancy.

In the case of routes between foreign or Spanish cities whose travel time by road is at least five hours, the minimum services will be between 44 percent from La Palma and 57 percent from Alicante.  

For routes that can be replaced by other means of public transport in less than five hours, the minimum guaranteed services will be between 18 percent from Castellón and 30 percent from Vigo.

The workers are asking for a 5.5 percent salary increase but the proposal offered by their employers, which is 2 percent in 2023 and 2.5 percent in 2024, is “very far from their demands”.

The USCA and CCOO unions have decided to call the stoppages due to “the failure of the negotiations” with the Business Association of Civil Air Traffic Providers of the Liberalised Market (APCTA). They finally gave up trying to find a solution after several “unfruitful” meetings.