Gibraltar was not a success, that's for sure. When the route was started, I forecasted in a Spanish forum that the route made no sense, and the majority of people debating with me disagreed. In my opinion, MÃ¡laga airport is only 60 minutes away from Gibraltar, and shows a much more efficient infrastructure to deal with passengers, aircrafts, cargo, and so on, and on top of that, it has a 24h schedule, and it's by far cheaper.
is able to sustain all the transportation needs of MÃ¡laga and the Costa del Sol (up to Sotogrande), why an extra airport would be needed? In fact, GIB
has a role in the UK-GIB
market, but not elsewhere, since GIB
is not (in general) the final destination of any Spanish / European passenger (except those coming from the UK, because of the cultural and the political relationship). On top of that, the area next to GIB
is not that populated / rich to need an extra airport.
In my opinion, the MAD
route could have performed well but it didn't because:
1) Iberia didn't let Air Nostrum operate the flight. Air Nostrum could have set at least two flights (one in the morning, and another one in the evening) with their Dash / CRJ of 50 seats, matching more efficiently both the point to point business traveller's needs, and the connecting passenger's needs. Instead of doing this, Iberia put the flight in a very convenient schedule to capture connecting pax from Spain/Europe/America, but that was terrible to point to point travellers (particularly for those from GIB
Airways (operating as BA
) was quite unloyal. IB
, before launching the route, agreed to operate two MAD
) daily frequencies to allow the premium passengers a fast trip to MAD
or to GIB
in the same day. They agreed that IB
would operate the frequency of the morning and GB
the other one. IB
loaded the route on Amadeus only a few months before the agreement between GIB
, the UK, and Spain. But on the contrary, GB
airways started it very late (and left the route very soon as well), and whereas IB
put its own code on GB
flights, the carrier from Gibraltar didn't do the same with the ones of Iberia (even if they had agreed to do so). And then, the outcome was the the local travellers from GIB
website and they only saw one daily flight. And you know, it's the classical "OK, the schedules are not good, I'd rather take the train". And with GB
Airways giving up the route, IB
knew that they wouldn't be able to maintain a constant flow of passengers on their own.
3) The AVE train is arriving MÃ¡laga at the end of 2007, and for sure GIB
is more vulnerable than AGP
. Can a flight operated on a daily basis compete with the AVE service out of MÃ¡laga?
==> As long as Iberia & GB
Airways were unable to match the needs of the local point to point travellers, the ones willing to pay premium fares (business class) avoided the route and preferred the AGP
one (which has more competitors, cheaper fares, and much more frequencies) or even the AVE. This was the key aspect. Also seasonality is important, since Sotogrande, Tarifa, etc. etc. are a touristic pole, but the demand falls dramatically during the winter time. (Actually, IB
said that they could resume daily flights by the next summer.)
On top of that, GIB
didn't make a good job.
1st) The airport needed to be rebuilt before the launch of the flights, and it wasn't done. Now the government of GIB
announces flight restrictions due to the works at this airport. And as you could imagine, an airline is not willing to bear the costs of an airport that doesn't work properly.
2nd) The airport, although being very small, is very costly to airlines because (a) their taxes charged are above the ones of LHR
(guys, are you mad or what??? GIB
is NOT London!!!); and (b) the fact that the runaway crossed the road makes impossible of fast rotation of the aircraft, being the minimum time 50-60 minutes. (How do you want an airline have the aircraft on the ground one hour, which costs money, if even in BCN
Clickair makes stops of 30 minutes?)
3rd) On top of the prices, there was a lack of basic facilities and services. The airport has small and limited opening hours (that's why GB
airways cancelled the flights very frequently), they are affected by bad weather, they need to improve their procedures to avoid bird strikes, etc. etc.
4th) The airport was very uncomfortable for the passengers coming form the Spanish side. Even if the agreement with Spain stated that Spaniards using GIB
airport would be considered as if they (administratively speaking) departed or landed from Spain (so, no subjection to immigration), they had to deal with strange entrance and exit procedures as entering the airport from a bus station located in Spain. Come on, guys.... I still don't understand the obsession of Gibraltar with the border and immigration. It's funny that you can pass from Ayamonte (Spain) to Portugal just by passing a bridge (without even stopping of showing the ID
card or a passport), and the same goes with France, and that a such a small country, economically fed by activities that are considered illegal from the EU point of view, still requires ID
cards to their neighbours. I know the UK is not part of Schengen, but stopping the flow of people (or making it more difficult) is something against GIB
and its airport. I wonder why GIB
have not learnt the lesson.
To sum up, in my opinion GIB
had to prepare itself as a good airport for civilian purposes during this winter and try to catch airlines up to this point. Of course, LGW
are strategic stations, but many others could also fit. On Iberia's side, I wish they could substitute their A319 by two/three daily flights with Air Nostrum: one leaving MAD
at 6:30/7 am to gather the local business pax from from airports; another one at 11/12 am (maybe 4-5 days per week) to catch connecting pax from Europe/America (IB said that there was a marked for the US-GIB
passengers going to GIB
to take a cruise); and another one at 7/8 pm, both to gather local travellers back to home and to connect with the late evening flights to LATAM out of MAD
My two cents.