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The politicians are determined to see Corvera open next year

The European Union has extended their consultation time on deciding the outcome of Corvera airport by another month. Compensation to the airport authority AENA for their investment in San Javier is believed to be the only remaining hurdle in opening the new Murcia regional airport.

Meanwhile, plans to open the new transport hub continue, with what is expected to be the penultimate operational test having been carried out this week, as the State Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) sent a group of technicians to find and check the condition of all facilities for the purpose of certifying the operation of the new airport.

A total of 7 technicians visited the site, in a combined operation by AESA, SENASA, which deals with aviation training, consultation and technical assistance towards aviation safety and the environment, and INECO, a global leader in transport engineering and consultancy. The team visited every facility at the airport managed by Sacyr, and have concluded in their report that they have found no impediment that prevents the new Corvera airport functioning normally, thus paving the way for a final inspection before the airport can open.

In addition to checking the status of all the facilities, the technicians also carried out a variety of tests in order to check the response times to potential emergencies at all points in the facility, including the most distant, ensuring a maximum response time of less than 3 minutes. In these tests, the private company contracted to carry out fire fighting and emergency rescue procedure responded well within the maximum time, with a response time of just 2.25 and 2.30 minutes.

It was therefore concluded in the report that with the final test still pending, so far everything is looking favourable, and a theoretical date for opening has been given as of April, 2015, depending on the ruling of the European Union.

With a potential date now in mind, it is expected that the airport will be presented at the next international travel agency event held by the IATA association, which is set to take place from the 11th to the 15th of November in Prague. With nearly 1000 delegates, from over 200 airlines and representatives of over 60 schedules-facilitated or fully coordinated airports, this semi-annual meeting is one of IATA’s largest events. The goal of the conference is for airlines and airports to obtain the slots that will give them the best possible schedule to offer their customers.

The flight “slots” being allocated in the IATA conference are from April to September, 2015. Should Corvera not be able to present itself at this next conference, the airport would have to wait until the next available session, which will be held from the 23rd of June, 2015, in Vancouver, Canada, or even next autumn in the November 2015 conference being held in Bangkok, Thailand.

Missing out on this next crucial bidding event could force the airport management to carry on with their plan to open, irrespective of the pending decision from Europe, a decision which is likely to end in only one of two ways, the first option being that there is no case to answer, the second being that compensation must be awarded for the construction of the second runway at San Javier, thus resulting in nothing but a financial burden, rather than an operational restriction.

Many still argue that it will not be possible to close San Javier as passengers already have flights booked into the summer of next year, but one only has to look at how quick action was taken in closing Blackpool airport in the UK, with flights diverted within days, some with only hours notice, and, although a very different reason, that argument cannot be held in balance.

Local coordinator of the IU-Verdes group, José Antonio Pujante, believes that it is “highly doubtful and it makes no sense” that the Competition Tribunal of the European Union would approve the opening of Corvera, as it is so close to the commercial airports at San Javier and Alicante-Elche, but with San Javier set to close, Corvera is further away than Alicante-Elche.

A report of the European Commission approved the now questionable 200 million euro loan required to close San Javier, as Corvera was considered “necessary” for regional development. The Directorate General for Competition also reported on issues with the San Javier location, which suffers “a serious problem of saturation in high season”, along with the restricted military academy activities at certain times of the operational day. Similarly, the runway was / is relatively short for large aircraft, and the facilities are close to “valuable natural areas” and surrounded by zones “densely populated”, so that any extension would have a negative impact. Therefore, it would prove difficult to increase passenger numbers in the future, a report which was concluded and approved even before the recent reduction in passengers using San Javier.

On Wednesday, the Regional Minister of Industry, Tourism, Business and Innovation, Juan Carlos Ruiz, confirmed that the opening of Corvera is “a quantitative leap for tourism in the region”, and it is “essential for tourism that this airport opens”, whilst not giving any actual dates, but guaranteeing that the regional government will do “everything in our power to make it easier to open”. Part of his insistence is that a report from the Chamber of Commerce of Murcia states that the regional economy will grow again in 2014, after five years of decline, but next year “may be an important year” in which we can “translate that growth”.

With the operational outlook now looking more positive than ever before, and with time ticking away until the first payment of 7 million euro needed before the 1st of January to offset a 180 million euro payment plan, the ability to secure flights sooner rather than later can only be of benefit to the new Murcia Regional airport, albeit at the cost to San Javier, which will close at some point, whether in April or later, a move which is seemingly inevitable.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/45367/

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