Aena is preparing a viability study of all Spanish airports and Rafael Catalá, the Secretary of State for infrastructures, has today said that a re-structuring plan for the 17 smallest airports will be published within a few days, indicating that none of them will be closed.
Aena has accumulated debts of 14 billion euros
The president of state-run Aena, which runs most of the country's airports, José Manuel Vargas, is fully aware that sweeping changes to the structure of the organization will have to be made at some point: last year 42.3% of its cash flow was used up by the interest payments on the accumulated debts of over 14 billion euros, and Ana Pastor, the Minister of Fomento, has said that she had to ask three times for the company’s accounts before she was able to see the figures for herself. In the light of the real situation, her statement that it makes the company “complicated to manage” perhaps errs towards the understated.
The debts of Aena have tripled since 2005
Aena’s total debt has tripled since 2005, while staff, running and financial costs are currently at 2,514 million euros per year.
It is within this context that the management has finally seen the need for what they call “an ambitious austerity plan” in order to improve results, especially given the results of a detailed analysis by consultancy firm Sisconges & Estrategia. The conclusions of this analysis are that only ten of Spain’s 49 airports are making financial profits, and although the losses have been smaller since 2009 a further 820 million euros have been lost in the last three years.
The real “black holes” in Aena are revealed by analyzing the figures per passenger in each of the airports, with the most shocking case being that of the Huesca-Pirineos airport. Here each passenger using the facilities costs Aena a total of 1,607 euros, meaning that it would be cheaper for Aena to hire a limousine and ferry each individual to Madrid. In fact, they would be a thousand euros better off in this way, and the passenger wouldn’t have to pay a penny. In the whole of last year only 2,871 passengers used the airport.
But Huesca-Pirineos is not the only airport showing such disastrous results. Córdoba’s passenger numbers have dropped by half since 2009 to just 8,442 in the whole of 2011, while the cost per user has doubled to 458 euros. And in Vitoria, which was used by 40,000 passengers in 2009, there were just over 28,000 last year, each of them costing Aena 363 euros.
The problem is not limited only to small airports. Even in Barajas in Madrid, which was used by almost 50 million passengers last year, Aena made a loss of 1.91 euros per passenger: in other words, a total of almost 95 million euros. This is an improvement on the 4.39 euros per passenger recorded in 2009, but the aim should be at least to break even! The situation is similar at El Prat in Barcelona, where the loss per passenger has been cut from 1.66 euros to 0.64 euros, meaning that “only” 22 million euros was lost in 2011.
San Javier is the least of Aena's worries.
The situation at San Javier is among the least preoccupying. Although passenger numbers fell in 2011 and a debt of 64.6 million euros had to be serviced, the airport only just dipped into the red, making a loss of just 2.56 million euros (2 euros per passenger) according to Aena’s figures. Had debt repayments of 4.5 million euros not been necessary, a profit would have been made.
All in all Aena made a loss of 349 million euros on the 39 unprofitable airports last year, compared to a profit of 122 million on the other ten.
Image: San Javier airport last week
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