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Heaviest Snowfall in 50 Years Closes Madrid's Airport

14 January 2021.

Spain is usually associated with warmth and plenty of sunshine, particularly in summer but now and again, winter weather can be less predictable. Over the past few days, Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD), serving the country’s capital city, has been struggling to reopen after the worst snowstorm in five decades brought a rare closure of airport activities.

(Image - Madrid Metropolitan News)

The airport is operated by AENA, the Spanish national airport company and with traffic already severely curtailed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, MAD nonetheless had the highest number of passengers across AENA’s network in 2020 with 17,112,389 travellers. The figure represents a 72.3% decrease over 2019. In terms of the number of operations, aircraft movements in 2020 totalled 165,740, down by 61.1 over the previous year.



Left - even the trains were snowed under and roads became impassable

Madrid Metropolitan News

MAD opened on 22 April 1931, although commercial flights did not begin until late in 1933. 330 hectares of open land were chosen near the then town of Barajas (now a district of Madrid), as the site was well connected to the capital via the road to France. On the airfield, a large white circle with the name of Madrid inside served as a guide for pilots. On 15 May 1933 a Fokker VII/3M three-engine plane landed, marking the opening of Madrid-Barajas to commercial civilian traffic. The first scheduled routes operated by LAPE, the company that would later become Iberia, were to Barcelona and Seville. That year, with Lieutenant Colonel Jacobo de Armijo y Fernández de Alarcón as the first director, 378 flights were operated, transporting 2,873 passengers.

Successive renovations and improvements were subsequently undertaken to meet the needs of the new aircraft and the first paved 1,400 metre airstrip was built in 1944.

In the mid-1950s half a million passengers a year used the airport. The Airport continued to grow and adapt to new needs. In 1954 a new terminal was built, called the National Terminal, now Terminal T2. The passenger terminal was completed with a cargo terminal and cargo aircraft aprons.

In 1965, Barajas changed its name to Aeropuerto de Madrid - Barajas.

In the 1970s, which began with the arrival of Jumbo jets, air traffic doubled to exceed one million passengers a year, and in 1971 work commenced on a new passenger terminal devoted exclusively to international flights, now known as Terminal T-1.

Soon after the opening of the International Terminal, what was then known as the Terminal Norte was opened for the Madrid-Barcelona Air Shuttle, with the innovative concept of ‘arrive and fly’. Spain’s national carrier Iberia airline operated the service, which began flying in 1974. Still in operation the shuttle has its own area inside the terminal. In 1980 extensive refurbishment of the National Terminal was undertaken for the 1982 Football World Cup.

In 2000, to increase the airport's capacity to 70 million passengers a year the 'Barajas Plan' was put into effect; the extension of the airport included a new control tower, two new runways and project was completed on 4 February 2006 with the opening of the new terminal which included the current T4 and its satellite building T4S, with a surface area of over 750,000m and capacity for 35 million passengers a year and 120 flights an hour, enhancing Madrid-Barajas's standing as a world hub airport. On 24 March 2014 the official name of the airport was changed to Adolfo Suárez Madrid- Barajas.

Above - MAD's terminals today are modern and have all the facilities one expects (AENA)

Below - MAD today, seen in sunnier times. The original terminal area and runways are to the left, with the expanded layout to the right and newer terminals in the centre.

(Michiel1972 Wikimedia Commons)

Airlines at MAD (currently operating from Terminals 1 and 4)

Terminal T1: Aegean Airlines, Air Arabia, Air China, Air France, Air Malta, Air Serbia, Alitalia, Brussels Airlines, Delta Airlines, EasyJet, Egyptair, IranAir, KLM, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Middle East Airlnes, Ryanair, Swiss, TAP Air Portugal, Tarom, Transavia, Tunis Air, Turkish Airlines and Wizzair.

Terminal T4: Aeroméxico, Air Baltic, Air Europa, Air Nostrum, American Airlines, British Airways, Bulgarian Air, Czech Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Evelop, Iberia, Iberia Express, LATAM, Luxair, Plus Ultra, Qatar, Royal Air Maroc and Vueling.




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