Air travel demand in Spain up 2.7% in 2010 despite winter strikes; Iberia still bigger than Ryanair with Vueling third

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary celebrated the September launch of the  Barcelona El Prat base  in typical fashion but in spite what it says on his t-shirt, for 2010 as a whole, Ryanair was the second-biggest airline operating at Spanish airports, behind Iberia. Among the new services introduced by the Spanish airline in 2010 was the route between Madrid and Córdoba, Argentina, back in October.

Like Italy, passenger numbers passing through Spain’s airports fell in both 2008 (by 3.2%) and 2009 (by 8.1%). Also like Italy, passenger numbers rebounded in 2010, growing by a modest 2.7% to almost 193 million passengers. This figure would have been better if the country’s air traffic controllers had not gone on strike during December, resulting in traffic for that month falling by 2.3%. Total aircraft movements for the year were still down 2.4%.

Source: AENA

Source: AENA

During the 12 months of 2010, the award for the fastest-growing major airport in mainland Spain went to Bilbao (four times); Barcelona, Malaga and Seville (twice each); and Madrid and Valencia (once each). Girona’s dramatic loss of passengers in November and December can be attributed to Ryanair’s growing network at Barcelona, though the airline recently concluded negotiations with Girona Airport and announced a five-year extension to its agreement which will see up to 10 aircraft based at the airport this summer serving over 60 destinations, including eight new ones.

Among the 23 airports that handled more than one million passengers in 2010, the fastest-growing were Santiago de Compostela (+11.8%), Fuerteventura (+11.6%) and Ibiza (+10.2%) while at the other end of the scale passenger numbers were down 17.3% at Murcia San Javier, and down 16.7% at Reus.

Iberia holds off Ryanair to be #1 airline in 2010

Despite being overtaken by Ryanair during the peak summer period between July and October, for the year as a whole Iberia remained the leading airline operating at Spanish airports handling just under 29 million airport passengers using its own aircraft. A further 7.7 million passengers were carried on Air Nostrum which operates regional services on behalf of Iberia.

Source: AENA

Source: AENA

Ryanair’s growth of 35% in 2010 suggests that it has every chance of being the leading airline in Spain in 2011 as a whole, and not just during the summer months. Vueling, in which Iberia has a stake, maintained its third place in the rankings while reporting an increase of 4.3% in passenger numbers through Spanish airports.


  1. Christian says:

    I don’t think your Spanish Pax data is correct, e.g. this article (also based on AENA data) claims that Ryanair is the largets carrier in Spain:

    Your data double-counts domestic pax (that’s an issue with the way AENA displays annual traffic stats in its database). Iberia has only been carrying around 20m pax over the last couple of years.

    • We are looking at the data from an airport’s perspective, meaning that double-counting domestic passengers is correct. However, if you count the number of passengers carried on flights to, from and within Spain then it’s quite likely that Ryanair is now #1. We have, however, tried to be clear in stating that we are counting Iberia as the leading provider of passengers through airport facilities.

  2. CM says:

    Christian is right. RYR is the number one airline in Spain leading IB by over 2 million PAX as shown on AENA statistics and published on every paper in the country.

    Double-counting domestic PAX is a fake figure as it doesn´t reflect the actual number of PAX flown on each carrier but rather the amount of PAX connecting thru Spanish airports, a market in which RYR and other carriers are not players. That´s why EZY, which is the third carrier in Spain, is shown here on the 7th position.

    AEA and SPP only wish they were 4th and 5th place when in reality they have fallen to 6th and 7th place respectively.

    What´s really strange is that, with all its reputation on true and genuine facts, publishes such erroneus data which is missleading to its readers.

    Even the president of IB admitted the defeat in a recent interview:

    In summary, has published data double-counting domestic PAX which in turn can only benefit connecting airlines and does not give ACTUAL figures of transported PAX and therefore leading carriers in Spain.

    • We disagree that double-counting domestic passengers is ‘fake’, ‘erroneous’ and ‘misleading’. If taken out of context without appropriate explanation or if targeting consumers, maybe, but we argue that it is a perfectly normal way for AENA as an airport operator to count this way.
      Although you of course are correct in that it does not present the actual number of transported passengers, our analysis is not of the Spanish market but of Spanish airports and it is clearly stated that “Iberia remained the leading airline operating at Spanish airports”.

      • CM says:

        I can see your point. There are many ways to show statistics (transported PAX, connecting thru airports, PAX/km, fleet, revenue per PAX, etc..).

        The way has published its ranking is therefore not “fake” or “erroneous” but is not fair to point-to-point carriers like RYR or EZY which cannot have their PAX counted twice for the stats as they don´t offer connecting flights and that are unable to compete in such a ranking.

        That´s why I think that the header of the news, which is what most people read, can be misleading to many readers as it doesn´t give details of the targeted PAX (actual or connecting) : “Iberia still bigger than Ryanair with Vueling third”.

        Such a news header is in conflict with every other header in Spanish newspapers and TV agencies which offer the ranking based in ACTUAL pax and where IB has lost their leadership in the Spanish market for the first time in history to a low cost carrier like RYR and by over 2 million PAX, which indeed is amazing news and the sign of a true revolution in the Spanish market.

        I think Mr O´leary has every right to wear his t-shirt “SPAIN´s No 1 AIRLINE”, as admitted by IB´s CEO Mr Vázquez himself.

  3. Iver says:

    Counting in both ends of the flight is a normal practice everywhere. And Anna Aero is definetly not faking numbers. This also includes RYR pax on city pairs like BCN to places like PMI, SCQ, SVQ, IBZ etc etc…

  4. Christian says:

    The problem is that you are “double-double” counting domestic passengers in your stats. This has nothing to do with connecting passengers.

    When you get a download from the AENA website you would select “all airports” to get the figure for the whole of Spain, but this figure is only correct on an airport level, not on a country level.

    E.g. a passenger travelling IB BCN-MAD-BCN will be counted as 2 pax in BCN (1x Dep & 1x Arr) as well as 2 pax in MAD (1x Dep & 1x Arr). So overall we would count 2x pax in BCN and MAD. Now by selecting “all airports” in the AENA drop down, it would give you a total for the whole of Spain of 4 Pax. But this is incorrect, as their database doesn’t account for the fact that this is the very same passenger (it just adds the figures for MAD and BCN together). On an individual airport level the data is correct, but on a country level it is not.

    Unfortunately IB no longer gives total pax numbers in their monthly traffic reports, but you can check the AEA website ( for their passenger data and you will find that IB only carries around 20m pax a year, so your total of 28.85m cannot be correct.

  5. Maarten says:

    The person that gave the name to Barcelona’s airport was a great man with predicting skills. He already named it after Ryanair’s boss 🙂

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