BRIEF ON GIBRALTAR AIRPORT
Gibraltar Airport is greatly underused in terms
of civilian flights. At present, there are direct flights only
to London Gatwick and London Luton.
In the past, there have been direct services
to London Heathrow (discontinued end of March 2002), Manchester
(discontinued several years ago), Tangier, Casablanca and Marrakesh.
All discontinued flights were operated by GB Airways for British
Airways. There was also a direct service to Madrid which was operated
by British Airways which was discontinued in 1979 (four years
after Franco's death).
There were representations made to GB Airways
by the Government that it was not in Gibraltar's best interests
to have a number of flights (as was the case in 1996-97) travelling
on to Morocco from Gibraltar as the seat capacity on the Gibraltar
route was thereby curtailed sometimes severely: there were occasions
when the service from Heathrow to Gibraltar and Marrakesh did
not call at Gibraltar because all seats had been sold to Marrakesh.
Instead of increasing dedicated capacity to Gibraltar and at the
same time retaining the Morocco services. The airline decided
to operate distinct flights to Gibraltar and Morocco. This decision
was coloured by the fact that the airline found that its clients
experienced difficulties with obtaining visas for Gibraltar. The
Manchester service was discontinued by GB Airways because the
airline considered it uneconomical due to high costs and low yield.
The number of air arrivals at Gibraltar has
been increasing steadily, since 1996 when the Government came
into office and gave impetus to the promotion of tourism. The
passenger arrivals figures (rounded off to the nearest 100) over
this period are:
There has been an increase of 40 per cent in
air arrivals over the last six years.
This increase has been achieved notwithstanding
the cutting back of services from airports from which direct flights
are no longer available (which has restricted the catchment area
for Gibraltar flights) as a result of:
(1) an increase in the number of flights
to Gibraltar, which now stands at 21 weekly services from London
in the summer (three times daily) and 16 services a week in the
(2) the commencement of services from Luton
by Monarch Airlines in addition to the GB Airways Gatwick service;
(3) the operation by existing carriers of
larger aircraft on the Gibraltar route, with the consequent additional
capacity, rising from 112 seats to 190 seats and over.
The growth in air arrivals would have been larger
had flights from Manchester and Morocco not been discontinued.
There has been interest from other airlines
in flying direct to Gibraltar from other destinations, but Spain's
obstructive policies and high landing charges imposed by the MOD
are powerful dissuaders.
The Government believes that there is a demand
for additional air capacity to Gibraltar and, through Gibraltar,
for the southern part of the Spanish Costa del Sol.
The growth of no frills airline operations to
many European airports cannot open up the Gibraltar market, because
our landing charges are prohibitive. There has been interest expressed
by Ryanair, but they would wish to be exempted from all landing
charges, which is not feasible: other airlines would (justifiably)
expect similar treatment.
MOD landing charges.
High fuel costs, because of the small volume
of aviation fuel supplied: the economies of scale available elsewhere
are denied to Gibraltar airport.
Spain's policy of not allowing flights to Gibraltar
to divert to Malaga when this is necessary because of adverse
weather conditions. This is extremely inconvenient for passengers
and expensive for airlines, who need to cover additional costs
for no extra return.
The length of the runway.
The aids available to aircraft for landing when
there is reduced visibility.
The exclusion of Gibraltar from EU air liberalisation,
the "single sky".
The Spanish dimension in opposing any attempt
by a carrier to commence a direct service to Gibraltar from any
airport other than a UK airport.
The unavailability of a special visa regime
for Moroccan nationals wishing to travel to Gibraltar for shopping.
Further pointers in relation to the above issues:
MOD LANDING CHARGES
MOD landing charges at Gibraltar are much higher
than those charged by airports in the vicinity and at London airports,
which makes it uncompetitive for an airline to operate a service
to Gibraltar in preference to Malaga or Tangier.
As an example the following table for charges
per landing which currently apply (2002) serves to highlight the
differential in prices:
Monarch operates Airbus 320 and GB Airways is
introducing these aircraft on the Gibraltar service, and as they
are larger they pay higher landing fees (over £1,100 per
landing). The difference in landing charges between Gibraltar
and other airports has therefore increased.
The MOD has an operational requirement to maintain
Gibraltar airport, and it alleges that it only tries to recover
from landing charges the additional costs incurred by allowing
commercial operations. It is said that these additional costs
exceed £1.4 million pa
MOD have been asked (at meetings between the previous
Commander British Forces and the Minister for Tourism and Transport)
for a breakdown of the £1.4 million, but this has not been
forthcoming. The sum seems very high.
MOD income from landing charges has been increasing
year on year, as a result of:
(a) more aircraft operating to Gibraltar;
(b) larger aircraft being used by operators who consequently
pay higher fees.
The Government suggested to MOD that landing charges
at Gibraltar airport should be reduced by the MOD for a specified
period of time, say three years (because lead in times for opening
new routes are long), during which time GOG would attempt to entice
existing operators to diversify their services and attract new
operators. GOG recognises that there will be a loss of income
to the MOD (compared to their present rate of income per annum).
Most of that loss would represent a loss of increased income achieved
in recent years.
There is an MOD precedent for reducing landing
fees: a 50 per cent reduction in the standard tariff is offered
to new operators or flights from new airports for two years. However,
even this discount is insufficient to make Gibraltar landing charges
attractive compared with those, which apply in the region. For
example, a 50 per cent discount on the £1,107.54 fee for
an Airbus A320 would today reduce the fee to £553.77, which
is still more than double the Malaga fee of £242.34. Furthermore,
reducing tariffs for new operators only results in unfair competition
to established carriers. What is required is a lower tariff structure
for all operators.
GOG indicated to MOD that it was prepared to discuss
a formula whereby there would be a direct GOG subvention paid
to MOD to recognise that landing charges had been reduced across
the board. The way in which this subvention would be structured
has not been discussed or negotiated, as the MOD has not shown
interest in the suggestion. For the avoidance of doubt, GOG was
not offering to cover the totality of the shortfall between existing
MOD revenue from landing fees and the proposed level pegging of
the Gibraltar landing charge with that of Malaga: only a proportion.
A service was operated by Regional Air Lines (a
Moroccan carrier) for a short period of time between Casablanca
and Gibraltar, but it was uneconomical partly because of landing
fees which came to about £300 per landing of the 19-seater
aircraft, even though only 50 per cent (£150) was charged.
Every attempt to introduce new services to Gibraltar
has been frustrated. Examples of this are:
1. Madrid refuses to allow direct air communications between
Gibraltar and Madrid or Barcelona, for which there is demandprobably
sufficient for at least a daily service to Madrid and a less frequent
service to Barcelona. Ironically, there was a direct Madrid flight
from Gibraltar during the period of the closed border under Franco,
and when the service was discontinued by British Airways for commercial
reasons in 1979, and the airline subsequently wished to reinstate
it, the Spanish Government refused to allow it. If it were possible
to commence operations tomorrow, GB Airways would wish to once
again offer this service, and probably so would Iberia.
2. A Portuguese airline, Aerocondor, filed an application
in 2001 with the Portuguese Civil Aviation Authority to operate
a Lisbon-Gibraltar service, and the airline was told that they
were not being granted a licence because of Spanish pressure.
3. Crossair, a Swiss airline, was very interested in operating
a service from Geneva or Basle to Gibraltar, and were progressing
well towards this end, when the whole operation went dead. It
is strongly suspected that Spanish pressure was brought to bear
on the airline to "persuade" it to drop its application.
There is strong suspicion, although there is no
actual evidence, that airlines are practically blackmailed by
Spain into dropping any interest they might have in Gibraltar
operations through veiled threats that they will lose good slots
at Spanish airports if they are supportive of Gibraltar in any
way. The only services which are allowed are those which operate
from the UK or Morocco (ie outside EU).
Spain has entered into a deal with the UK that
no EU air liberalisation matters will be extended to Gibraltar
(and the UK has accepted this), unless Gibraltar signs up to what
is known as the 1987 Airport Agreement. The reason for this is
to ensure that Gibraltar does not acquire the right to operate
services to any Community airport, unless Spain is first given
joint control of the airport at Gibraltar. Such a right means
that a Madrid service could be reinstated, which the Spanish Government
vehemently oppose. In this regard, it is moot that prior to the
full reopening of the land frontier with Spain, and the extension
by Gibraltar of full EU rights to Spaniards in advance of Spain
entering the EU (ie in late 1994), the Spanish Government agreed
at a technical level inter alia to the full restoration
of air and sea links with Gibraltar, in addition to the land link,
and yet it neither restored air links nor allows others to do
so, in breach of its obligations.
An exchange of correspondence from 1991 between
the Chamber of Commerce and the Prime Ministers of the United
Kingdom and Spain is attached. The reply from the Spanish Premier's
office only issued after a complaint was made by the Chamber of
Commerce to the Spanish Ombudsman that no reply had been forthcoming.
In the third paragraph of the letter of 5 December 1991, the Spanish
Prime Minister's Office made clear that Spain had signed the 1987
Airport Agreement for "reasons of sovereignty".
The Gibraltar Government has no objection to a
shared use of Gibraltar airport, on a commercial basis, but it
is opposed to joint control.
If a flight bound for Gibraltar needs to be diverted
because of adverse weather conditions, it normally has to land
at Tangier first, and then travel to Malaga. If it does not do
this, the aircraft is obliged by the Spanish authorities to return
to the UK from Malaga empty and a new empty aircraft needs to
fly out to Malaga to collect the outgoing passengers from Gibraltar
who travel to Malaga on a coach in order to board their aircraft.
This is scandalous.
This is a critical issue for the success of an
air service (and indeed a frequent ferry service) between Morocco
and Gibraltar. At the insistence of the UK, the local arrangement
for issuing visas on arrival to Moroccan nationals and to controlling
their entry and departure from Gibraltar was revised a few years
ago consequent upon the EU Common Visa List Regulations. What
had, until then, been a lucrative business attracting Moroccans
to shop in Gibraltar dried up overnight as they found it very
difficult to obtain visas.
It is not commercially viable to develop air services
to Morocco without a satisfactory resolution of the visa issue.
If the navigational aids for landing in reduced
visibility at Gibraltar were to be upgraded, a number of flights
which today need to be diverted to Malaga would be able to use
the Gibraltar runway.
There may be an issue which will need to be addressed
in the short term should the number of flights to and from Gibraltar
airport increase; it will then be feasible to have a main road
cross the runway, and alternative solutions will need to be sought.
Some of the potential solutions carry an MOD dimension.
It is not satisfactory to the Government that
the Shell aviation fuel facility should be situated almost next
to the Terminal building: the Government would wish to resite
this further away within the boundary of the airport, for reasons
exclusively of public safety. This will require the grant of MOD
land. An approach to the MOD in this regard will shortly be made.
Ministry for Transport
Duke of Kent House
Letter from the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce to the
Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 10 April 1991
I am enclosing a copy of the joint proposal prepared by the
Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce and a group of interested Spanish
businessmen, to the respective Prime Ministers of Britain and
We believe that our suggestion forms a sound basis on which
to move from the present stalemate position in a way which would
derive important benefits to both business communities on either
side of the border.
We have quite deliberately created a set of words which avoid
entirely these sensitive issues of sovereignty or any implied
acceptance of the 1987 agreement. Our aim was to put forward a
proposal which would gain the maximum benefit for the commercial
sectors in this area with the smallest political concession possible.
The proposals have been made public in Gibraltar and although
the response has been muted, behind the scenes, it has been encouragingly
positive. I personally have no doubt that the ball is firmly in
the court of the politicians in Madrid and I do hope they will
take this opportunity to break the unhelpful impasse which is
doing so much damage to relations between Gibraltar and Spain.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to
discuss any aspect of our paper prior to my meeting you in London
on the 23 April at 1200.
Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce
10 April 1991
Letter to the Prime Minister from the Gibraltar Chamber
of Commerce and the Association of Small and Medium businesses
of La Linea, 8 April 1991
The Group in favour of the expanded use of Gibraltar Airport,
represented by the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce and the Association
of Small and Medium businesses of La Linea which have been holding
meetings since the beginning of the year, is in a position to
demonstrate the importance widely recognised, that the greater
use of this airport would have.
Being able to make use of a gateway to the rest of the countries
of the Common Market will facilitate enormously in the development
of Gibraltar, La Linea, the hinterland and the western Costa del
Sol in such areas as tourism, retail activities, property development
and shipping with the subsequent important benefits to job creation,
moreso in the current circumstances of these sectors. Being able
to avoid having to travel to Jerez, Malaga or Seville would mean
real savings in time and money, in the transport of passengers
as well as merchandise, for a population of almost 500,000 people.
The potential of a superport in the Bay and its area of influence
is also evident. The great event of the EXPO 92 would further
justify any expansion of the present facilities for flights to
Gibraltar. To this should be added the complementary commercial
activities which a developing airport generates with the subsequent
Our proposal in this respect, in order to break the present
impasse and to create a favourable climate to seek a global solution
to the problem of the greater use of Gibraltar airport is that
flights should be authorised on a daily basis between Gibraltar-Madrid
and Madrid-Gibraltar as soon as possible by means of Spanish and
British airline in such a way that travellers to Spain would pass
by a direct channel straight into Spanish territory.
We are hopeful that the meeting to be held with the President
of the Spanish Government, on the 6 May next, in London, could
be an opportune occasion to approve the above proposal. We are
convinced of the favourable effect which such approval would produce
and of its immediate repercussions in social and commercial relations.
We wish to make clear that the majority of the businesses
sectors on both sides of the Frontier and a growing number of
people are conscious of the benefits of having scheduled services
with the capital of Spain, as a first phase towards establishing
air services which have long been sought after by trade.
We trust this proposal will receive your favourable attention.
PS. We have also sent the Spanish version of this proposal
to the President of the Spanish Government on this same date.
Attached please find a list of the firms and associations that
have formed part of this Round Table to date.
Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce
APYMEL La Linea
8 April 1991
Letter from the Private Secretary, Downing Street,
to the President of the Gibraltar Chamber of Commerce, 25 April
Thank you for your letter of 8 April to the Prime Minister.
I have been asked to reply.
We have noted your ideas with interest. We are always ready
to explore ways which might lead to a resolution of the impasse
over development of the airport in Gibraltar. We have made this
clear to the Spanish and Gibraltar Governments. If they are prepared
to consider your proposals as a possible way forward, we should
certainly be willing to do so too. I agree with you that a fully
developed airport would bring considerable benefits to the region
We are grateful for your efforts in trying to find a resolution
to this long standing problem.
25 April 1991
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