As a significant tourist destination and the primary gateway into Europe for millions of visitors from South America, Spain has some very busy airports. But which are the busiest? Given the detrimental effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on tourism, all the figures used in this article are based on 2019 traffic.
In size, Spain is the second-largest country in the European Union after France, and with a population of over 47 million, there is a considerable market for domestic aviation. Adding in the number of tourists who visit Spain each year means it’s unsurprising to note that some of the country’s busiest airports are located in holiday destinations.
The big two airports in Spain
Spain has a great deal of domestic air travel, and when anyone wants to fly outside of Europe, they almost always do so by connecting in Madrid or Barcelona.
Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD)
Being the capital of the country and its financial hub, it is not surprising to learn that Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD) is the busiest airport in Spain. Since opening in 1931, Madrid–Barajas Airport has become one of Europe’s most important aviation centers. Located six miles from the financial district and eight miles from the Puerta del Sol, Madrid–Barajas Airport is the second largest by area in Europe after Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG).
In 2019, Madrid–Barajas Airport handled 61.8 million passengers, making it Spain’s busiest airport and the sixth-busiest in Europe. Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD) is also the home of Spanish national flag carrier Iberia.
Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN)
Serving the Catalonian capital of Barcelona, this airport is located in El Prat de Llobregat, 9.3 miles southwest of the city center. As Spain’s second-largest airport after Madrid–Barajas, Barcelona-El Prat Airport handled 52,686,314 million passengers in 2019. Before a high-speed rail network opened in 2008, the Madrid-Barcelona airbridge was the busiest air route in the world.
Spanish tourist destination airports
Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI)
Located on the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI) handled 29.7 million passengers in 2019, making it the third busiest airport in Spain. Besides having a large German and British ex-pat community, Palma de Mallorca Airport is especially busy during the summer as millions of northern Europeans arrive to soak up the Spanish sun.
It is also worth mentioning that Mallorca’s neighbor, the party island of Ibiza, handled 8.1 million passengers in 2019, making it the ninth busiest airport in Spain.
Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport (AGP)
Located on Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast, Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport is the gateway to hundreds of miles of Andalucian beaches and the jet-set cities of Marbella and Puerto Banus.
In 2019, Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport handled 19.8 million passengers, making it the fourth busiest airport in Spain. The airport has daily flights to 20 cities in Spain and most of Europe. During the peak summer season, it also has flights arriving from the Middle East and North America.
Alicante–Elche Miguel Hernández Airport (ALC)
Serving the Communidad Valenciana, Alicante–Elche Airport is the gateway to Spains Costa Blanca and the Meditereanean resort of Benidorm. In 2019, Alicante–Elche Airport handled over 15 million passengers, making it the fifth busiest airport in Spain. Interestingly
80% of all passenger flights from Alicante–Elche Airport are to international destinations.
Other airports worth a mention
Given that they have nearly year-round spring-like weather due to their location off the coast of Morocco, the Canary Islands have the sixth and seventh busiest airports. In 2019, Gran Canaria Airport (LPA) handled 13.2 million passengers while Tenerife South Airport (TFS) handled 11.1 million passengers.
Other contenders on mainland Spain are the country’s third-largest city Valencia, which saw its airport handle 8.5 million passengers, and the Andalusian capital of Seville, with 7.5 million.
What is your favorite and least favorite Spanish airport? Please tell us what you think in the comments.