Barcelona Mayor Wants to Ban Flights to Madrid

The Mayor of Barcelona has proposed a flight ban for all air traffic between Barcelona and Madrid and to move people in trains in an attempt to combat global warming.

Flight ban

According to Spanish local media the idea has been proposed by Barcelona mayor Ada Colau, 45, and has the support of some city councilors. Colau reportedly wants to end the so-called ‘Puente Aéreo’ (airbridge) between Barcelona’s El Prat Airport and Madrid Barajas Airport in order to combat CO2 emissions. The Madrid to Barcelona air route is Europe’s busiest routes in terms of passenger traffic, with almost 2.5 million passengers flying between the two airports in 2018 and 2.3 million in 2019.

Railway alternative

City councilor Eloi Badia said that there is nowadays a good train alternative between Spain’s two biggest cities. Badia said: “The ‘Puente Aéreo’ has a railway alternative with no emissions.”

The proposal still needs to be debated in the Barcelona city council before it will be formally voted upon.

barcelona placa reial
Plaça Reial, a square in the Barri Gòtic of Barcelona. ©Paliparan

Not competent

According to Spanish daily ‘El País’ the Barcelona city council does however “not have the competencies” to ban airlines from operating a certain route and to intervene in flight traffic, which makes the entire proposal of a symbolic nature only.

Move to rail transport

The construction of the AVE high speed railway line between Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid has slashed travel time by train between Barcelona and Madrid to just two hours and 30 minutes on the non-stop train. According to media reports, the train has won a loyal share of travellers thanks to the city centre location of the train stations and hassle-free service. When taking into account travel time to reach the airport, check-in cut-off and security, the train even works out faster than the plane for many passengers.

Spanish newspapers noted that flights are however often cheaper than the high-speed trains operated by national railway company RENFE. Reportedly, railway bosses and politicians alike want to address this issue by introducing cheaper fares on the route.

ave high speed train spain zaragoza
AVE high-speed trains at Zaragoza-Delicias station. ©Paliparan

Decrease in flight traffic

The introduction of the high-speed service did already show its effect on the Puente Aéreo. In 2006 the Barcelona to Madrid flight route was the busiest in the world in terms of passenger traffic, although it has now even fallen out of the top 50.

With over 14 million passengers a year, the route between Seoul and the island of Jeju in South Korea is the world’s busiest air route. It is followed by Tokyo-Sapporo (Japan) in second place with almost 9.7 million passengers in 2018 and Sydney-Melbourne (Australia) in third place with 9.2 million passengers in the same year.

Three operators

The Puente Aéreo is not only used by passengers on a point-to-point basis to travel between the two Spanish cities, but is also vital for connecting air passengers for whom the high-speed railway might not be a realistic alternative. Currently, Iberia, Air Europa and Vueling fly between Barcelona El Prat and Madrid Barajas.

Iberia and Air Europa both allow passengers originating in Barcelona to connect through their Madrid Barajas hub to destinations all over the world with a simple change of flights. Vueling has a similar large hub in Barcelona El Prat.

madrid plaza cibeles
Madrid’s Plaza de Cibeles. ©Paliparan

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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