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Aircraft on the ground at the airport on Spain's Costa del Sol. Marilú Báez
Malaga Airport fast approaches all-time record of 600 flights a day, but how many more can it handle?
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Malaga Airport fast approaches all-time record of 600 flights a day, but how many more can it handle?

On just one day in July some 577 flight operations are already scheduled and, with plenty of time for last-minute flight plans still to be filed, that figure could easily increase

Ignacio Lillo

Malaga

Tuesday, 18 June 2024

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Some 600 flights could take off and land in a single day at Malaga Airport this summer, which would be an all-time record in gateway to the Costa del Sol site's history.

If it were to occur, it would likely be on 14 July when there are already 577 scheduled landings and take-offs. "This summer we have every chance of passing the 600 operations mark," sources at the airport's control tower said. That day of 14 July is a Sunday and at the height of the holidays. "In practice we are still a little below that figure, but there are always a number of planes that make a flight plan at the last minute, especially the executive (private) ones; so we expect that on that day we will go over 600." If the controllers' forecast is met, it will be a record number of air operations in a single day at Malaga.

Another milestone could also be reached, where for the first time, in July and August there will be no fewer than 500 flight operations per day between the two runways at Malaga Airport. According to official data, there are upcoming days with 530, 550 and 560 scheduled take-offs and landings.

Soaring air traffic

In July last year, the number of landings and take-offs on some days (especially the two slowest, Mondays and Wednesdays) was still between 400 and 500.

July is the strongest month, while August tends to drop slightly from the second fortnight onwards. This year, however, this period at the end of the high season will see more than half a thousand aircraft every day.

On 14 July, some 577 operations are already scheduled, and with last-minute flights that figure could reach 600

"Demand has spread so much that this year we are going to have an 11-month peak season. With each day, traffic peaks have become much longer. As an example, on 12 June, in the afternoon, there was air traffic that could have suggested it was any morning in the summer of 2019. These months are going to be a challenge for all airport professionals," airport control tower sources said.

Meeting the increase in demand has been possible thanks to the Midas project, which has taken Enaire seven years to develop and is now fully implemented in Malaga, since it began its deployment in November 2023. In terms of air navigation, the new features include the creation of a third approach sector, compared to the two that existed previously, which has increased operational capacity.

Project Midas

What determines capacity is the infrastructure available at the airport: terminals, security screening, runways and aircraft gates, among others. With the previous system, the maximum was set at 46 movements per hour, such as one landing and one take-off every two minutes.

With the previous procedures, controllers could hold that peak for a limited time, one or two hours, but not on a sustained basis. Now, with the new slot, it is maintained on a continuous basis. As can be seen, the off-peak hours are being filled in, resulting in more stable operations with fewer ups and downs throughout the day.

Looking to the future, Midas has also assumed that local airspace is already prepared for a maximum of 65 movements per hour, which is a landing or take-off every minute and for less than a minute. That would be 19 more operations, or a 41% increase over the current situation. However, this will also require an increase in ground staffing: counters, security, aircraft docking stations and more.

Arrival and departure operations in Malaga city are segregated. Aircraft always land and take off against the wind, and since most days there is an easterly wind, the preferred configuration is south. In this case, runway 12 (the new runway) is used for landings and runway 13 (the old runway) for take-offs. On days when the wind blows from the west and landings are made on the north configuration, which is the other way around: the most modern runway is used for take-offs and the old one for landings.

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