ANDORRA KEEN TO LAUNCH REGULAR FLIGHTS FROM REGIONAL AIRPORT
Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell Airport has since 2015 been owned by both Andorra and the Government of Catalonia. Located in the middle of the Pyrenees, the small airport is less than 30 minutes away from Andorra’s capital city and is set to become the main air gateway of the principality.
Opened in 1982 to accommodate small private aircraft, La Seu airport had been in the hands of the Catalonia government since 2008, with the government managing the facilities through a public agency. However in 2015, an agreement was signed between Andorra and Catalonia, and the airport changed its name to Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell airport.
The change allowed the Principality of Andorra to invest and cooperate with Catalonia in the management of the airfield. Ambitions are high to get regular scheduled flights next to existing on-demand flights for business or medical flights.
La Seu will thus become the reference airport for the Principality, and according to Andorra State Secretary for Economic Affairs Eric Bartolome, Andorra has a real need to open up: “Until today, 99% of arrivals are by road, in particular via the Pas de la Case on the French border and La Seu d’Urgell on the Spanish border. It is important that we can connect our country to the outside world. That is often a requirement from investors coming to us. Some are reluctant to settle in Andorra because of the lack of air links.”
Offering regular flights from La Seu airport in nearby Catalonia and having a fast, easy land access is then of utmost importance. This is especially the case, as a project for a national airport in Andorra itself, near the French border, was definitively abandoned by the government in June. A report from the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) pointing to difficulties for future airlines to land at the envisioned airport prompted the government to renounce to the future “Grau Roig” Airport. All the money allocated for the funding and construction (over €345 million) is now able to be affected to promote the Andorra-La Seu d’Urgell Airport, improve road access and even create a rail link with Spain.
For Bartolomé, the current La Seu airport is ready to welcome airlines: “Last year we were finally able to install a GPS guidance system at the airport, which will allow us to welcome regular flights. We are now able to welcome ATR 42 or 72 offering the highest safety standards.”
Local airline Air Andorra plans its first route to Madrid
Priority is given to the two cities with the highest demand out of Andorra: Madrid and Paris. “These are destinations that are popular with both leisure and business travellers. And they also offer global connectivity to our country. This would, for example, help to popularise short stays for visitors, especially during the winter season,” said Bartolomé.
In June, local carrier Air Andorra confirmed the launching of a first route to Madrid which will be followed by a regular flight to Palma de Mallorca.
According to Andorra State Secretary for Economic Affairs, estimations envisions an initial passengers’ traffic of 80,000 to 100,000 on a yearly basis. After Madrid or Paris, the Andorran government foresees the establishment of regional routes in Spain or France such as Toulouse. But also the launching of air routes to Brussels, London, Rome or to Portugal. Besides Air Andorra, regional Spanish carrier Air Nostrum has already announced its interest to offer regular flights.
Andorra-La Seu airport is a mere thirty minutes from the principalty’s capital, Andorra-la-vela at a distance of about 25 km, with an excellent road. From the border, the airport is only a dozen kilometres away. In the future, if there is a large demand, the Andorran government plans to build a cable car. This would be an environment-friendly and weather-independent means of transport.