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Barcelona Airport , commonly known as El Prat Airport, is located southwest from Barcelonamarker, Cataloniamarker, Spainmarker, among the municipal terms of El Prat de Llobregatmarker, Viladecansmarker and Sant Boimarker.

The airport is the second largest in Spain behind Madrid-Barajas Airportmarker and the first in Cataloniamarker and the Mediterraneanmarker coast. It is a main hub for Spanair and Vueling Airlines and a focus city for Air Europa and Iberia Airlines. The airport mainly serves domestic, European and North African destinations, also having minor flights to Southeast Asia, Latin America and North America.

The Barcelona-Madridmarker air shuttle service, known as the "Pont Aeri" (in Catalan) or "Puente Aéreo" (in Spanish), literally "Air Bridge", was the world's busiest route until 2008, with the highest number of flight operations (971 per week) in 2007. The schedule has been reduced since February 2008, when a Madrid-Barcelona high-speed rail line was opened, covering the distance in 2 hours 40 minutes, and quickly became popular.

In 2008, 30,208,134 passengers used Barcelona Airport., a slight decrease from 32,793,897 in 2007.


The new Terminal 1 Sud
Exterior of the airport T2
Terminal T2 B check-in counters

Barcelona's first airfield, located at el Remolar, began operations in 1916. However, it did not have good expansion prospects, so a new airport at El Prat opened in 1918. The first plane was a Latécoère Salmson 300 which arrived from Toulousemarker with final destination, Casablancamarker. The airport was used as headquarters of the Aeroclub of Catalonia and the base for the Spanish Navy's Zeppelin fleet. Scheduled commercial service began in 1927 with an Iberia service to Madrid Cuatro Vientos Airport. This was Iberia's first route.

In 1948, a runway was built, today 07-25, in the same year the first overseas service was operated by Pan American World Airways to New York Citymarker, using a Lockheed Constellation. Between 1948 and 1952 a second runway was constructed (runway 16-34), perpendicular to the previous, also taxiways were constructed and a terminal to accommodate passengers. In 1963 the airport reached one million passengers a year. A new control tower was built in 1965 and the terminal was rebuilt in 1968 (currently the oldest wing of Terminal B).

On 3 August 1970, Pan American World Airways inaugurated regular service between Barcelona, Lisbonmarker and New York, operated by a Boeing 747SP. On 4 November of the same year, Iberia began the "Air-shuttle" service between Barcelona and Madrid-Barajasmarker. A few years later, in 1976, a terminal was built specifically for Iberia's air-shuttle service and a terminal exclusively for cargo, an annexed mail service and an aircraft ramp for air cargo. In 1977 the airport handled over 5 million passengers annually.

From late seventies to early nineties the airport was stalled in traffic and investments until the 1992 Summer Olympics held in Barcelona. El Prat underwent a major development consisting in the modernization and expansion of the existing terminal (terminal B) and the construction of the other two (A and C terminals) which included jetways for direct access to the aircraft. This reform was designed by architect Ricardo Bofill Levi. In 1996, a new control tower was inaugurated also designed by Ricardo Bofill Levi.

Due to the strong drop in air traffic after 1999 and the crisis in the aviation sector in 2001 many charter operations from Gironamarker and Reusmarker were diverted to El Prat, which helped the airport to endure the crisis.

Notable accidents and incidents

  • On 21 October 1994 a Falcon 20 cargo aircraft made an emergency landing at the airport after suffering a malfunction in its landing gear, none of the three crewmembers were injured.
  • On 19 February 1998, two people, the commander and the pilot died in an Ibertrans general aviation plane crash in the borough of Gavàmarker shortly after taking off from El Prat.
  • On 28 July 1998 a general aviation cargo plane carrying press from Mallorcamarker crashed next to one of the fences surrounding the airport, killing two crew members and co-pilot.
  • In 2002, a Bashkirian Airlines Flight 2937marker, which originated in Domodedovo Airportmarker in Moscow, collided with DHL Flight 611 over Germany en route to Barcelonamarker.

El Prat today

Most of the traffic at Barcelona Airport is domestic and European, in which Spanair and Vueling have an operational base. However, the number of intercontinental connections is well below other European airports with their level of passenger traffic. The lack of intercontinental connections has been a constant cause of complaint and pressure by the authorities and Catalan groups in recent years, who want the airport to become a centre of world air traffic distribution and not just European.

In recent years the traffic of low-cost airlines has grown significantly, especially after the creation of operating bases from Vueling and Clickair at the airport. Vueling and Clickair merged in July 2009, now they operate under the name of Vueling. There are other low-cost airlines operating from the airport including easyJet and WizzAir.

The airport has 3 runways, two parallel, nominated 07L/25R and 07R/25L (the latter opened in 2004), and a cross runway 02/20. There are two terminals: T1 and T2, which is the sum of the previous Terminal A, B and C and the new T1 opened on 16/6/2009. The two terminals have a combined total of 268 check-in counters and 64 boarding gates. Operations at the airport are restricted exclusively to IFR (instrumental flights), except for sanitary VFR flights, emergency and government.

A plan for expansion (Plan Barcelona) includes a third terminal building (also designed by Ricardo Bofill) and control tower. An additional runway (07R/25L) has also been built. Once these developments are complete in 2009, the airport will be capable of handling 55 million passengers annually (compared to 33 million passengers in 2007). The airport is slated to expand in area from by 2009. A further expansion is planned to be finished by 2012, with a new satellite terminal which will raise the capacity to 70 million passengers annually.

The airport is the subject of a political discussion over the management and control between the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Spanish Government, which has involved AENA (airport manager) and various airlines, Iberia and Spanair mainly. Part of the controversy is about the benefits that the airport generates, which are used in maintenance and investments in other airports in the network of AENA and government investments in other economic areas.

Terminal 1

The new terminal T1, designed by Ricardo Bofill was inaugurated on 17 June 2009. The new terminal T1 has an area of 544,066 m2, and an aircraft ramp of 600,000 m2.

Its facilities include:
  • 168 check-in counters
  • 50 jetways
  • 15 baggage carousels (one of the new carousel is equivalent to 4 carousels in the old terminal) and
  • 12,000 parking spaces, in addition to the 11,900 already in the terminal 2 (current Terminals A, B, C).

The forecast is that the airport will be able to handle 55 million passengers annually and will reach 90 operations an hour.

The extension of the airport with a total investment of €5.1 billion in the future will include a new satellite terminal and refurbishment of existing terminals. The civil engineering phase of the South Terminal has been made possible by a budget of €900 million.


Graphical volume of passenger traffic between 1963 and 2006
Passenger Volume
Year Passengers % Year Passengers %
1963 1,000,000 - 1999 17,421,938 +7.6
1977 5,000,000 - 2000 19,809,567 +13.8
1990 9,205,000 - 2001 20,745,536 +4.7
1991 9,145,000 -0.7 2002 21,348,211 +2.9
1992 10,196,000 +11.5 2003 22,752,667 +6.6
1993 9,999,000 -2.0 2004 24,558,138 +7.9
1994 10,647,285 +6.5 2005 27,152,745 +10.6
1995 11,727,814 +10.1 2006 30,008,152 +10.5
1996 13,434,679 +14.6 2007 32,898,249 +9.6
1997 15,065,724 +12.1 2008 30,208,134 -8.2
1998 16,194,805 +7.3 2009
Font: Aeroport de Barcelona, AENA.
Operations Volume
Year Operations %
1999 233,609 -
2000 255,913 +9.5
2001 273,119 +6.3
2002 271,023 -0.8
2003 282,021 +4.1
2004 291,369 +3.3
2005 307,798 +5.6
2006 327,636 +6.4
2007 352,501 +7.6
2008 321,491 -8.8
Cargo Volume
Year Tonnes %
1999 88,217 -
2000 88,269 +2.4
2001 81,882 -7.8
2002 75,905 -7.3
2003 70,118 -7.6
2004 84,985 +21.2
2005 90,446 +6.4
2006 93,404 +3.3
2007 96,770 +3.6
2008 104,329 +7.7

Ground transportation


Terminal 2 has its own RENFE commuter train station on the line Nord , which runs from the Maçanet-Massanes station, with major stops at Barcelona Sants railway stationmarker and the fairly central Passeig de Gràcia railway station to provide transfer to the Barcelona Metro system. Passengers for T1 must take a connecting bus from the train station to T1. As part of the major expansion above, a new railway station will be built nearby, connecting the airport to the Spanish AVE network, and Line 9marker of the Barcelona Metro.


The Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB) public bus on line 46 runs every 16 minutes from Plaça Espanyamarker. A scheduled private bus line (Aerobús) from Plaça Catalunyamarker, stops at Urgell and Plaça d'Espanya. Taxi stops are available at each terminal. The C-32B highway connects the airport to a main traffic interchange between Barcelona's Ronda de Dalt beltway and major motorways.

Airport parking

Barcelona Airport has approximately 24,000 parking spaces (12,000 at T1 & 12,000 at T2), 2,009 of them are in the parking building, placed in front of Terminal 2C, which it is connected to the airport by a covered corridor. In front of Terminal 2A, another parking building, which adds approximately 2,600 more spaces, this building is being extended with the construction of two new levels. The remainder are distributed in other areas on the exterior, in front of the terminal buildings and offices buildings. Since 16/6/2009, there is also a long stay parking between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Terminals, airlines and destinations

Terminal 1
Terminal 2A

Terminal 2C

: Singapore Airlines flights make a stop in Milan-Malpensa, but Singapore Airlines does not have the rights to carry passengers between Milan-Malpensa and Barcelona.

Cargo airlines


  • Zunino, Eric (November 2004) "Barcelona Airport", Airline World, pp. 40–43.
  1. EUROCONTROL basic
  2. 2007 aircraft movments, passengers and cargo traffic
  3. OAG reveals latest industry intelligence on the busiest routes
  4. 2008 aircraft movements, passengers and cargo traffic
  5. Barcelona / Plan Barcelona

External links

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