Barcelona-Madrid has been revealed as the busiest airline route in Europe. This is based on data in the recently published ‘Busiest Flights 2020’ report by travel data provider OAG.
A busy and competitive corridor
With 3,650,780 seats available on scheduled flights between Barcelona El Prat and Madrid Barajas in 2019, this route between Spain’s two most populous cities is Europe’s busiest by a margin of almost 500,000. Second in the list is Turkey’s Izmir-Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen, with 3,171,479 seats, with the third busiest (3,041,975) linking Izmir and Istanbul Atatürk.
The above figure represents 10,000 seats available on scheduled flights every day. The route, known as the ‘Puente Aéreo’ (Air Bridge), is served by Spanish flag carrier Iberia, as well as the country’s second and third largest airlines, low-cost carrier Vueling and Air Europa. Flights are scheduled to take around an hour and a half. However, the airlines have more to compete with than just each other.
Since its opening in February 2008, the 386-mile Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line has added an extra dynamic to this competitive corridor. Journeys along this line, whose trains are capable of 333 km/h (207mph), take just two and a half hours.
This represents a strong alternative, particularly for city center to city center journeys. Such is its strength, alongside its environmental advantages, that Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau was reported in January to be looking to ban all flights along the corridor in favor of high-speed rail.
This, however, does not take into account passengers flying between the two cities in order to connect to an onward destination, for whom flying is, of course, more convenient. In any case, it is doubtful as to whether the mayor would have the power to impose such a restriction.
Reduced schedule at present
The data in OAG’s report was based on scheduled flights in 2019, and the present coronavirus pandemic will, of course, have a significant impact on its next iteration. Research for upcoming weekday flights (Monday, September 28th-Friday, October 2nd) shows that Iberia will be operating three (Monday-Wednesday) or four (Thursday-Friday) daily flights each way along the ‘Puente Aéreo.’ Vueling, meanwhile, will be performing one (Tuesday-Wednesday) or two (Monday, Thursday-Friday).
Both carriers will operate these flights using aircraft from the Airbus A320 family. However, more variety is to be found in Air Europa‘s schedule. It operates just one flight each way every weekday. However, the airline uses a wide variety of aircraft to cover this schedule.
From Monday to Wednesday, the flight will be operated by an Airbus A330, with the widebody action continuing on Thursday when a Boeing 787 Dreamliner takes over. Friday’s rotation is scheduled to be flown by a Boeing 737.
The ongoing pandemic and the political push to have more passengers use high-speed rail would shift some habits. Therefore, it will certainly be interesting to see this route remains Europe’s busiest in future reports.
What are your thoughts about this route? Have you flown between these two cities? Let us know what you think in the comment section.