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Jerez airport aims to host a greater number of flights and airlines. L. V.
Flying high? Jerez airport cannot truly take off without a runway extension
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Flying high? Jerez airport cannot truly take off without a runway extension

Cadiz city's football team and their recently aborted flight to El Salvador highlights a take-off issue that has been known about for years

Álvaro Mogollo

Friday, 7 June 2024, 13:38

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Much has been said about how important it would be for the whole province of Cadiz to see Jerez airport revamped as one of the key hubs to connect this part of southern Europe with the rest of the world. For this to happen, a number of issues must be brought together and fixed.

One of them, which has already been brought up previously, is the length of the runway at Jerez airport (its full name is Jerez La Parra). Due to its characteristics not all aircraft can operate from there, thereby limiting the flight options it can accommodate.

This is nothing new - in fact it appears in the documentation of the proposed revision of La Parra's Master Plan published in January 2022 by the Ministry of Transport. In short, the public body stated that any aircraft can land on Jerez soil, but not when it comes to take-off as some aircraft, depending on the payload, need a longer runway before wheels can lift off the ground.

According to the same documents, the last time any work was undertaken to extend the runway was way back in 1970. More than 50 years have gone by since then and the need for change is more patently obvious than ever before.

Cadiz football club had recently planned a trip to El Salvador to attend the naming of a football stadium in tribute to a key footballer, but the trip was aborted in Seville after an emergency landing due to a mechanical problem with one of the engines. This really showed up that the airport in Jerez is not currently able to accommodate all types of aircraft, severely limiting its ability to compete with other destinations.

The incident that forced the football club to cancel their presence at the tribute to centre forward Mágico González in his home country was not by any means caused by the airport's limited runway. However, it does highlight the difficult situation in which the pilots found themselves. The flight route became more complicated simply because the flight had to leave Jerez bound for Lisbon, where it was to top up on fuel before making the non-stop transatlantic flight. This would not have been possible at Jerez airport because the aircraft would not have been able to take off with a full payload of fuel due to the shorter runway.

The 2022 Master Plan literally states: "Due to the fact that aircraft in both the current and planned fleet cannot take off at their maximum take-off weight, there is a need to extend the length of the runway."

Therefore, it is clear that the Ministry of Transport, now headed by Óscar Puente (PSOE), is aware of this problem. However, in order to alleviate the problem, investment is needed to allow this extension to be carried out to take the airport to the next level.

Some 18 months ago, in November 2022, the Partido Popular (PP) of Jerez announced that, at a national level, their political party was going to present an amendment to the General State Budget requesting six million euros to carry out runway extension work at the airport, but the proposal went no further in the Congress of Deputies.

Key to growth in tourism

A much more recent proposal, literally from last week, was taken by the PP to the plenary session of Jerez city council and approved, thanks to the absolute majority of García-Pelayo's party. In said proposal they again asked the Spanish government for investment to undertake this runway expansion to make the airport more competitive.

Jaime Espinar, Jerez's councillor for public services, stated that "the continuing drop in passenger numbers is causing concern among the business and tourism sectors, which see their opportunities for growth and expansion being limited."

Despite being a comfortable airport that works well for travellers, you only have to look around the place to realise that it does not operate a large number of flights: "It  operates at barely a third of its capacity despite having a first-class infrastructure and great possibilities for future growth", says Espinar.

In a province where tourism is so important, the airport is essential for this sector, especially for attracting foreign visitors, helping to improve seasonality by encouraging visits in the low season when travel is less associated with the beaches.

The limited runway prevents the airport being able to attract large-capacity flights from European capitals and even more so when talking about long-haul. Going intercontinental would make it possible to exploit opportunities with new markets that could be of interest to the province.

Boosting the airport rail services

The rail connection to Jerez airport is very straightforward as the train station can be reached directly within a few metres of the airport terminal. Passengers can catch the train from Cadiz city, San Fernando, Puerto Real, El Puerto de Santa María and, of course, from Jerez city station. Unfortunately, the frequency is minimal , around three trains a day, making it impossible for locals and visitors to travel at their convenience to and from the airport.

Jerez city council itself has called on central government to make an effort to increase the number of local, stopping train services (Cercanías), as the current status means that airport workers have to use private transport on a daily basis to reach their place of work and many travellers have no alternative but to pay for taxi services.

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