The history of Barcelona-El Prat: the second busiest airport in Spain

Aeropuerto Barcelona–El Prat (BCN), also known as El Prat Airport, is a major international airport serving Catalonia in Spain. By size and number of passengers, it is the second largest airport in Spain after Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (MAD) in the national capital.

El Prat Airport is located 15 km southwest of Barcelona city center, in the municipalities of El Prat de Llobregat, Viladecans and Sant Boi. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, El Prat Airport handled a record number of 52,686,314 million passengers, up 5% from the previous year. Today, El Prat Airport serves as a hub for Vueling and Level and is a target city for easyJet and Ryanair.


The history of BCN

Barcelona’s first airport at El Remolar having no room to expand, a new airport at El Prat opened in 1918. The first aircraft to land there was a Latécoère Salmson 300 en route from Toulouse, France, in Casablanca, Morocco. The airport served as a base for the Spanish Navy’s Zeppelin fleet and was the headquarters of the Aeroclub de Catalunya. In 1927, the Spanish flag carrier Iberia started a regular service between El Prat and Cuatro Vientos airport in Madrid. After the Spanish Civil War and the end of World War II, an asphalt runway was built in 1948 (now called runway 07-25).

El Prat witnessed its first scheduled international flight the same year when a Pan American Airways Lockheed Constellation flew from BCN to New York. Between 1948 and 1952, a terminal, taxiways and a second runway (runway 16–34) were built to allow the airport to expand and develop. By 1963, El Prat was now handling one million passengers a year.


Emirates A380

BCN was the first airport in Spain to welcome the Airbus A380. Photo: Getty Images

In 1970, Pan America Airways began regular service between El Prat and New York with a Boeing 747. In the same year, Iberia launched its famous Barcelona-Madrid air shuttle service with passengers boarding the aircraft from the same way they would board a bus. In 1976 a special terminal was built for the Iberia shuttle and a new airport dedicated solely to cargo handling. By 1977, the Aeropuerto Barcelona-El Prat (BCN) was now handling more than five million passengers a year.

BCN gets a makeover for the 1992 Olympics

From the late 1970s to the early 1990s, BCN’s growth stagnated until it was decided to give the airport a complete makeover for the 1992 Summer Olympics. of two other terminals began with the introduction of the gangway to allow passengers direct access to the aircraft.


Barcelona El Prat Airport

Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport is visible behind the wetlands of the Llobregat Delta Protected Natural Area. Getty Images

Barcelona-El Prat was the first airport in Spain to receive an Airbus A380-800 when Emirates launched a daily service from Dubai International Airport (DXB) on February 1, 2014. In December 2016, the International Airlines Group ( IAG) announced its low Level airline would begin serving Oakland, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and Punta Cana from BCN in 2017.

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BCN expects $2 billion expansion

Now Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN), as it is known today, seeks to become a major long-haul international hub connecting Asia with North America. And while a $2 billion expansion plan was approved to build a third runway, everything was put on hold. A big sticking point to the expansion is a nearby wetland and La Ricarda Lagoon, a nature reserve that borders the airport. This means that construction in the lagoon area is now on hold until it receives the green light from the European Commission.


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