Fears of El Prat full capacity that could probably cause significant delays.

The amount of air traffic controllers has remained the same since 2006 in spite of a huge surge in the amount of flights. Airport controllers joined together yesterday to voice their concerns about the airport being overused. 6,700 flights were recorded one day last August which was a record high for the airport, making it increasingly difficult to control air traffic. “The amount of flights is not worrying in terms of security, however when the airport is particularly busy we are understaffed with air traffic controllers which can pose a serious risk,” explains Marc Garcia from the Union of Air Traffic Controllers (UATC).

Despite the increase in the amount of flights, the workforce of 70 drivers on the runway has remained the same for the past 10 years. According to figures from Enaire, in the first 10 months of this year, Gavá an airfreight company commisioned 763,348 flights, an 8.7% increase from last year. “We’re dealing with a figure that’s very high in comparison to the European average, which is 2.2%,” explains Laura Garcés, regional director of Enaire.

El Prat Airport is Reaching full Capacity

Air traffic controllers at Barcelona El Prat

 “There have been occasions in summer where the radio control frequencies which planes use to communicate are being overused and therefore have to be divided up”, adds Garcés. El Prat was initally intended as a terminal for medium-haul flights, making moving large aircrafts such as the Emirates’ A380 or Argentina Airlines’ A340 more difficult as they involve special manoeuvres where accuracy is critical. Vueling’s operating problems over the summer have led to El Prat becoming Europe’s third most unpunctual airport.

The Generalitat, the Barcelona City Council and the Cambra de Comerç are trying to improve the situation after reports warn that in seven years time the airport could reach its capacity limit of 55 million passengers. The Territorial Department want to construct a satellite terminal, similar to that of Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez, which was never implemented. But the controllers view the problem as more widespread, for instance with the runway. Enaire stated that El Prat could facilitate up to 90 operations per hour and it is currently only running at 68. However this is a capacity that is impaired due to noise concerns for neighbouring areas and the fact that separate runways are being used for landing and taking off, rather than independently.

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Source: El País
Image credit: flightconsulting.com