AENA Discuss The Future For San Javier Airport

Corvera Airport looks set to take over all flights for the Murcia Region, whilst by next summer, San Javier could cease operations entirely.

The lengthy negotiations between the National Government, Murcian Regional Government, the Ministry of Public Works and the Spanish Airports Authority (AENA), regarding the future of San Javier Airport and role of the new international facility at Corvera are finally drawing to a close, with the verdict swaying in favour of one major airport for the region, according to Spanish daily, La Verdad.

The decision has been a long time coming as the four parties argued over rights to compensation which would be paid to AENA for the enforced closure of San Javier.

The Government delegate, Rafael Gonzalez Tovar, argued that AENA had independently chosen to construct a second runway at San Javier, in spite of it being aware of a potential decrease in air traffic once Corvera International airport was operational. Therefore, he felt that any compensation should be minimal.

However, rumours now claim that a sum of over 70 million euros is in the pipeline, with AENA looking likely to accept.

The deal would also guarantee job security for the 85 AENA employees at San Javier, who would be given the choice of taking voluntary redundancy, located to another AENA airport or offered employment at Corvera airport.

During a meeting held in Madrid and attended by the Murcia Region’s Minister of Public Works and Planning, Antonio Sevilla, and Secretary of State for Transport, Isias Taboas, both delegates promised to “work together to capitalize airport infrastructure in line with the previous negotiations held by the regional president and the minister of development.”

AENA were supported by the executives at the new Corvera Airport, in suggesting that support from the two Politicians is vital in order to reach a swift and mutually beneficial compensation package for the Airports Authority.

Each party is also in agreement that with an increased number of ultra modern facilities, Corvera has the most potential out of the two airports, and would surely become a favourable option for passengers, airlines and airport operators.

It has not been confirmed where the future would lie for San Javier, although it has been suggested that it should be reserved as a training facility for student pilots and aircrew, or alternatively ceded back to the Military.

As it stands, AENA shares the operational costs of San Javier with the Ministry of Defence, primarily by way of maintenance and safety, and all air traffic controllers are military personnel.

On the other hand, The Regional Government has announced that it would support a complete closure of the airport, as its popularity has seen a downward spiral since 2008, or otherwise restrict its use to private or a small number of charter flights. It aims to have Corvera fully operational by Summer 2012, also ceasing operations at San Javier around this time.

Statistics for this summer have shown a significant increase in the number of tourists visiting Spain, although the volume of passengers flying into San Javier had actually fallen. The actual figures revealed a 3.5% drop during August and 5.2% in July compared to the same period a year earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of passengers favouring Alicante’s El Altet was on the up, by 2.3% during August, and airports owned by the AENA group witnessed a 4% growth overall.

With fewer, and somewhat antiquated facilities, San Javier has often been viewed as the “poor relation” beside El Altet, with the number of passengers using it falling gradually since 2008, from 1,876,255 then to 1,349,000 during last year, a total drop of 17.2 per cent.

So what do passengers think of the imminent closure?

Bartender, Tim Smith from Ciudad Quesada, admitted that it won’t really affect him because he rarely, if ever flies from San Javier. “Alicante is easier to get to from where I live, and the facilities there are far better, especially if you are delayed or something. Corvera will be useful for long haul flights though, as you have to go via Madrid, or back to the UK then fly from there to get to a lot of countries as it stands”.

Hairdresser, Maria Williams, from Campoamor, said “We were devastated when we heard that San Javier might be closing. I admit that it is smaller with fewer facilities but this is sometimes a good thing as you can pass through the airport so much quicker, there are less queues and everything is basic yet simple.

We have also been able to get cheaper flights in and out of San Javier than Alicante which has made it the ideal choice all round. Aside from all of that it takes around 20 minutes to get there, whereas both Alicante and Corvera are a lot further, which is not so good if you are getting a lift from a friend, and far more expensive by taxi.”

Whatever, we “the public” think of the move, AENA will obviously do what is financially best for them, and as Corvera seems likely to attract a large section of San Javier’s traffic, accepting the compensation offer would appear to be the softer option.

By Heidi Wardman

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