The central government and the Generalitat of Catalonia have finally formed the negotiating table on the expansion of Barcelona airport this Thursday, with the commitment to agree on a technical proposal during this year at the latest and which will have to be politically validated afterwards.
The Secretary General of Air and Maritime Transport, Benito Núñez, participated in the first meeting this Thursday on behalf of the Ministry of Transport; the general director of Civil Aviation, David Benito, and the technician of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, Andrés López. For its part, the Generalitat delegation included the Secretary of Mobility and Infrastructure, Marc Sanglas; the president and CEO of Aeroports de Catalunya, Daniel Albalate, and the general director of Interdepartmental Coordination, Marc Ramentol.
In the coming weeks, joint commissions will be established between the central and Catalan governments, whose members have yet to agree, to analyze governance, infrastructure (whether the extension of the third runway is necessary and possible alternatives) and the railway connections between the airports of El Prat, Reus and Girona.
The political calendar and the very dynamics of air activity are pressing. The Catalan elections will be held in February 2025 at the latest, so it is urgent to agree on a solution before exhausting the legislature. Added to this is the increase in passengers at Barcelona airport, which is already approaching the limit of its capacity, set at 55 million travelers. The interest of airlines in opening long-haul routes with the Catalan capital is also boiling. El Prat has already reached the pre-pandemic number of intercontinental connections this winter and for the summer an increase is expected that may peak given the current conditions of the airport, its director, Eva Valenzuela, recently warned. The possible expansion should also arrive in time to be included in the next airport planning document (DORA III), planned for the period 2027-2031 and which must be approved at the end of 2026.
The central government maintains its commitment to lengthening the third runway
In this way, an attempt is made to respond to a debate that has been going on for three years and that has generated confrontation at various levels: internally between ERC and JxCat, between the Generalitat and the central Government and between municipalities and environmentalists. The business world has defended the need to expand the airport to try to increase intercontinental flights, with greater added value. Last year, the Foment employers’ association presented the conclusions on the airport, with ten proposals to increase capacity, which included lengthening the third runway with an elevated platform over the La Ricarda lagoon.
The central government maintains the initial expansion proposal, with a planned investment of 1.7 billion euros. The Generalitat, on the other hand, has yet to define its alternative, although it has repeatedly advocated distributing flights between the airports of Barcelona, Reus and Girona to decongest El Prat. Governance over the airport, so that the Generalitat can decide on its management, is also among the demands.