31 October 2017 – Expansión
Yesterday, Aena came to the rescue of the international airport for the Region of Murcia with a multi-million euro offer to take over its operation, management and conservation for a period of 25 years. This ghost infrastructure was planned before the crisis by the regional government and a consortium of companies led by Sacyr, at a cost of €270 million. Nevertheless, the outbreak of the crisis submerged the installation into a tsunami of financial and legal problems, which prevented it from being opened even after the construction work had been completed, in 2012.
Five years later, in April, the regional executive opened a tender process, with a budget of €600 million. Aena, in which the Spanish State holds a 51% stake, was the only company that expressed interest in managing the infrastructure and it formalised its offer yesterday. Sources close to the bid say that the amount offered by Aena falls well below the tender price.
In all likelihood, the airport manager’s plan will involve moving operations from the San Javier military airport, 30 km away, to Corvera. The new president of Aena, Jaime García-Legaz, who has only been in the job for two weeks, has focused on the need to secure the management of the Murcian airport. “We are going to make an offer to win that is profitable for Aena”, he said last week in meetings held with the group’s personnel (…). García-Legaz is Murcian, but the offer had already been prepared by his predecessor, José Manuel Vargas.
Currently, 400 employees work at San Javier airport, of whom 72 form part of the workforce, which would be affected by the move. The managers themselves have reviewed the facilities in recent weeks to check that everything is in order so as to start the operation in the most agile way possible.
Some sources say that the first flights could begin next summer (2018). “The main objective should be to secure Iberia or another major airline to turn the airport into a key infrastructure hub”, they add.
The arrival of one or more large companies is key if the reduction in passenger numbers at the Murcian airport is to be plugged. Since 2007, traffic volumes have fallen by half, from 2 million users to 1 million in 2016, proceeding from low-cost airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair and Norwegian. And that decrease has happened despite the recent investment of €70 million made by Aena to construct a second runway. The airport has a single domestic route, connecting with Madrid, and 19 international routes, primarily to/from the United Kingdom. 92% of users are foreigners visiting the region for tourist purposes.
By contrast, the aerodrome in Alicante – 90km away – has seen its user number increase from 9 million to 12 million during the same period. Corvera is now adding capacity to manage a visitor flow of 3.5 million each year. If Aena does end up winning the contract to manage the installation, Corvera would become the 47th airport that the group manages in the country. The company has the capacity to welcome 330 million travellers, 30% more than the 230 million that used its airports in 2016.
Sources at Aena highlight that the airport in Murcia would generate profits for the group (…).
The Region of Murcia’s Ministry of Development will convene a meeting on Friday to analyse Aena’s offer and proceed to award the contract to manage the airport “as soon as possible”.
Original story: Expansión (by Víctor Martínez)
Translation: Carmel Drake