Bad Weather Impacts Madrid Airport Operations

Spain’s busiest airport, Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas (MAD), has been forced to close overnight due to adverse weather. Storm Filomena has brought heavy snowfall to much of a country generally better-known for its sunnier weather. The difficult conditions are expected to continue today.

IAG, Q3, Results
Madrid-Barajas is Europe’s second-largest airport in terms of the size of the area over which it is spread. Only Paris Charles De Gaulle is larger. Photo: Getty Images

Disruption since yesterday evening

The extensive disruption to the airport’s (and indeed the whole country’s) operations resulted from Spain’s heaviest snowfall in almost half a century. While flights did manage to operate for much of yesterday, the situation worsened later in the evening. The tweet below from flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.com shows multiple aircraft in holding patterns just after 21:00.

The adverse weather caused multiple diversions to the inbound flights, and cancellations to planned departures. The airport’s operator, Aena, confirmed on Twitter that 312 flights in and out of Madrid operated yesterday. Alongside these were 27 cancellations and 26 diversions.

One flight that did manage to slip through the cracks was Iberia flight IB2800 to Pamplona. This service operated by the Spanish flag carrier was carrying the Real Madrid football team. ‘Los Blancos’ face Pamplona-based CA Osasuna in a league match tonight.

Carriers such as Iberia did manage to operate some flights despite the adverse weather, including one carrying the Real Madrid squad. Photo: Getty Images

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

According to data from FlightRadar24.com, IB2800 arrived in Pamplona over three hours late. Departure from Madrid occurred at 22:39, with touchdown following just 34 minutes later at 23:13.

Efforts to clear the airport of snow

As the video below depicts, the airport has an immense job on its hands to clear its runways and taxiways of snow. It shows the view from the cockpit of one of the last aircraft that did manage to land in Madrid yesterday evening.

Such weather is extremely rare in Spain. This means that airport staff may not be as well prepared to deal with the conditions compared to more typically wintery countries such as Canada. According to the BBC, a further 20 cm of snow is expected in the Spanish capital today, so an imminent return to operations at the airport is perhaps unlikely.

The coming hours and days

At the time of writing, FlightRadar24.com was only showing six flights currently inbound for Madrid. These are all transatlantic services from Latin-American destinations, and they will likely find that they too have to divert.

09Jan2021 MAD Inbounds FR24
These flights from destinations such as Cuba and Chile may find that they need to alter their plans in the next few hours as they get closer to Spain. Image: FlightRadar24.com

As for departing passengers, Spanish flag carrier Iberia is advising passengers not to travel to the airport. Meanwhile, its operator Aena stated earlier that it would not be issuing further information until this evening. This will give it time to assess its options after the extra snow, that is forecast to fall in Madrid today, arrives.

With the airport closed until further notice, and a significant amount of further snow expected, we may see the disruption continue all weekend, or even into next week. The BBC has stated that temperatures as low as -12°C are forecast for Madrid on Thursday.

Have you ever had to alter your travel plans due to adverse weather? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. 

1 Shares: