Barcelona airport to rival Madrid with new terminal

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Barcelona's El Prat airport new terminal will almost double its capacity to 55 million passengers per year.

Barcelona – Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero opened Tuesday a new terminal at Barcelona's El Prat airport which will almost double its capacity to 55 million passengers per year.

El Prat will now rival Madrid's Barajas, which had 51 million passengers in 2008, as an international hub.

"El Prat is today a great airport," said Zapatero as he inaugurated the EUR 1.2 billion (USD 1.7 billion) Terminal T1 in the northeastern city.

Despite the economic crisis that is affecting air transport around the world, plans are under way to build a satellite to the T1, which would bring the total passenger capacity at El Prat to 70 million.

The new terminal, which begins operations on Wednesday, has a surface of 525,400 square metres (5.65 million square feet) and can handle 90 flights an hour.

It will initially be used for airlines in the Star Alliance, which will be joined in September by those in the One World alliance.

The expansion of El Prat is a long-standing demand of political parties in the semi-autonomous Catalan region, of which Barcelona is the capital, and who accuse Spain's central government of favouring Madrid airport over El Prat.

The newspaper El Pais said 20 percent of flights from Madrid last year were to or from international destinations, compared to barely 5.2 percent for Barcelona.

Almost 50 percent of Barcelona flights in the first five months of the year were by budget airlines, compared to 15 percent in Madrid.

AFP / Expatica

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