The aircraft could be in operation by the end of this year. / sur

This new plane could revolutionise international air travel at Malaga Airport

The Airbus A321 Extra Long Range, which begins trials this month, would be able to link the Costa del Sol with medium-sized cities in the USA and Asia

IGNACIO LILLO Malaga

A new aircraft type which would make it possible to increase the number of intercontinental flights from Malaga Airport is to start being tested this month, and could be in operation by the end of this year. The Airbus A321 XLR (Extra Long Range) can fly for over 8,000 kilometres without refuelling.

The plane, which uses 20 per cent less fuel per passenger and can carry 220 people, is being built in Spain, France, Germany and UK, and Airbus says it has already received 450 orders from the biggest airlines who are interested in connecting medium-size cities around the world and not just the most important ones. The current intercontinental aircraft carry between 350 and 550 passengers, which would not make sense on flights between smaller destinations.

“It is a very efficient plane, ideal for a medium-sized city like Malaga, which is an interesting destination but doesn’t have many long-distance flights at present,” says Antonio Gómez-Guillamón, the CEO of Aertec Solutions, an international company based on the Andalucía Technology Park which specialises in aerospace technology.

He believes that year-round flights between Malaga and New York, Miami and Chicago would be very positive for tourism on the Costa del Sol, as there are no direct flights with the USA at present, and so would additional connections with the Middle East. “We need to work on developing routes with buoyant markets and be proactive to ensure that airlines see that Malaga does have sufficient demand,” he says.

Important hub

Something else the tourism authorities are bearing in mind is the possibility of Malaga becoming an important hub for travellers between North Africa and the USA, as there are already a number of connections with Nador, Tangier and Casablanca.

This new aircraft would open up important possibilities of direct flights to cities in America and Asia, increasing international tourism and generating business opportunities without needing to use the huge aircraft which currently travel those distances.

“The airport is the key element for Malaga to continue to grow as a destination in which to live and work remotely, and planes like this offer huge potential to reinforce the Costa del Sol's position in the world," says Gómez-Guillamón.