Barcelona Airport Is Set To Get A $2 Billion Expansion

Because of differences between the regional authorities in Catalonia and the Spanish national government, Barcelona Airport’s €1.7 billion expansion plan has been put on hold. The expansion aims to make Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) a major international hub.

Barcelona El Prat Airport
Barcelona Airport borders protected wetlands. Photo: Getty Images

In August, Spain’s national government and Catalonia’s Generalitat agreed to invest €1.7 billion ($2 billion) to allow the airport operator Aena to expand Barcelona’s main airport. At the same time, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his government would invest € 1.6 billion ($1.88 billion) at the nation’s busiest airport Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suárez Airport (MAD).

The money will come from the European Union

The money for both projects will come from the €1.4 billion ($1.64 billion) that Spain received from the European Union to help rejuvenate the country following the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the money will come out of the recovery fund, Spain still needs the EU to back the two projects.

A big sticking point to the Barcelona Airport expansion is a nearby wetland and the La Ricarda Lagoon, a nature reserve that borders the airport. Now before construction in the lagoon area can begin, the European Commission must first approve it.

vueling to receive state-guaranteed funding
Vueling is based at Barcelona El Prat Airport. Photo: Getty Images

The expansion of Barcelona Airport aims to turn it into a significant international long-haul hub that can rival Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS), London Heathrow (LHR), and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). One of the key targets is for BCN to become a connecting city for flights between Asia and North America.

Spain’s airport operator Aena has already invested €48 million ($56.3 million) to reconfigure Terminal 1 at BCN to handle large aircraft like the Airbus A380. Despite Barcelona Airport being Spain’s second-largest airport after MAD, it still handled 52.7 million passengers in 2019.

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A high-speed rail line will connect REU-BCN-GRO

With the airport’s expansion, the investment will connect BCN with the region’s other two main airports at Girona and Reus by high-speed train. Once completed, passengers arriving at either Girona or Reus can connect to a long-haul flight from BCN in 30 minutes. According to government figures, the work at BCN will create 85,000 direct and 365,000 indirect jobs. It will also increase Catalonia’s GDP by 2.1 points.

One of the expansion’s main features will be to build a satellite terminal to support the extension of BCN’s third runway by 500 meters (1,640ft). However, this is currently being opposed by neighboring municipalities and environmentalists who say it will affect the La Ricarda Nature Reserve.

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau opposes the expansion

Barcelona mayor Ada Colau is also against the airport’s expansion, claiming it would increase air pollution. She called the airport operators claims that it would become one of the greenest airports in Europe a lie. As things stand, the Spanish government is set to debate the airport’s expansion at the end of September. Even if they go ahead with the plan, construction can only begin if the European Commission approves it.

Aeropuerto de Barcelona-El Prat
BCN want’s to become a hub for flights between Asia and North America. Photo: Pop9000 via Wikipedia

Like many airport expansion plans, there are those for it and those against it. According to environmentalists, extending Barcelona’s third runway into the La Ricarda Lagoon could destroy the biodiversity of the Llobregat delta.

What do you think; will the expansion go ahead, or will the plan be abandoned? Please tell us what you think in the comments.