File photo of Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport. / PEPE CABALLERO

4 November 1998: Barajas Airport inaugurates longest runway

The third runway was five kilometres from the others and there was no terminal there at the time, so it took aircraft more than ten minutes to taxi there


November 4th is an important date for Madrid's Barajas airport, for two reasons. Or, it would be more correct to say, an important date in two different years.

First, on 4 November 1974, the so-called 'air bridge', meaning a shuttle service, was inaugurated between Madrid and Barcelona, operated by Iberia.

The first flight on this new service had actually been two days earlier, leaving Barajas at 8am, but the official inauguration ceremony was organised for Monday 4th.

The newspapers showed photos of an effusive hug between Jesús Romeo Gorría, the president of Iberia, and the mayor of Barcelona, Enrique Masó, after the plane arrived at El Prat airport.

In addition to the existing services, this shuttle increased the number of flights between the two cities to 28, offering 3,200 seats and with no need to book the shuttle in advance. Over time, this became one of the busiest routes in the world.

However, the event that took place on 4 November 1994 was also record-breaking and was arguably of much greater importance.

On that day, the third runway at Madrid Barajas Airport was inaugurated and it was the longest in Europe, a gigantic 4.4 kilometres in length. It had cost 30 billion pesetas and was expected to gradually enable the number of operations at the airport to increase by 50 per cent.

However, the new project did cause quite a bit of controversy because the third runway was five kilometres away from the others, in an area where at the time there was no terminal. This meant that passengers whose flights were due to take off from the third runway had to board at the old terminals and the planes would then taxi to the new runway for take-off, something that added 12-14 minutes to the process.

Madrid-Barajas now has four runways and is the 11th busiest airport in the world and 4th busiest in Europe, handling nearly 62 million passengers a year.