Council of Ministers Outlines New Model for Airport Management

Alfredo Cabellos Ballenilla.

20/08/2008 International Law Office

On August 1 the Council of Ministers set out the main aspects of the new model for managing airports in Spain. They can be summarized as follows:

  • AENA (Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea - Spanish Airports and Air Navigation) will continue to be a public entity with a clear separation between its two main functions, control of air navigation and airport management.
  • A new company owned entirely by AENA will be created in order to manage Spanish airports. It is expected that approximately 30% of the new company’s capital will be transferred to private investors.
  • Spain’s autonomous regions will participate in airport management through the creation of stakes in the corresponding management companies, but only for airports with traffic exceeding 30 million passengers. Currently only Barajas airport in Madrid and El Prat airport in Barcelona meet this standard, with 52.1 and 32.8 million passengers in 2007 respectively. The airports of Palma de Mallorca (23.2 million) and Malaga (13.5 million) may reach the necessary level in the future.

AENA was created in 1990. It is a public entity with its own budget and public and private legal capacities that are independent of the state. It is connected to the Ministry of Development, which directs its actions and assumes responsibility for it. AENA is the world’s largest airport manager with 47 airports and a helicopter airport. It handled 210 million passengers and 2.5 million operations (ie, landings and take-offs) in 2007, and produced a turnover of €770 million in 2006.

Securing investment of private capital into AENA has been a recurring item on the government's agenda. Various models are being contemplated. One possibility is a public listing. Another is to segregate various airports in several packages and then issue a tender for minority participation in those packages. Considering the pattern followed for handling companies in Spain, an individual tender could also be considered.

The timeframe for executing this project has yet to be decided. It is expected that the process will last for some time given what is at stake (ie, the impact on the various existing pieces of legislation and the number of potential implicated parties).