Airline Spanair ceases trading

Sat, Jan 28, 2012, 00:00

Passengers were stranded at Spanish airports today after airline Spanair abruptly went bust, cancelling all its future flights at half an hour's notice.

"Faced with the lack of financial visibility for the coming months, the company has decided to cease its operations as a measure of caution and safety," Spanair said in a statement just before 9.30pm last night.

Its last scheduled flight landed at 10pm, leaving rivals such as Iberia, Vueling and Easyjet to share out the passengers left stranded by the airline, which runs flights within Spain and Europe.

Spanish media said at least 22,000 passengers were affected over the weekend but Spanair spokespeople were not immediately available to confirm this.

The airline operated charter flights from Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Malaga to Dublin during the summer season.

A queue of 200 surprised passengers formed at Spanair counters at Barcelona airport yesterday evening shortly after the announcement.

By this morning airports authority AENA said the situation was normal at Madrid's Barajas airport and Barcelona's El Prat, where special lounges had been allocated for Spanair customers.

"Passengers are turning up at these zones and the other companies are putting them on flights," an AENA spokeswoman said.

She said 55 Spanair flights were scrapped at Madrid and 54 at Barcelona today alone, with a handful of flights cancelled at Palma de Mallorca and Gran Canaria.

The company said in its statement: "The Spanair management regrets this and apologises to all those people who are affected by this situation."

Spanair, which was founded in 1986 and has about 2,000 staff, had tried to survive by a tie-up with Qatar Airways which fell through.

The company's chairman Ferran Soriano told the television channel TVE the Catalonia regional authorities, which own part of the company, would not continue investing in Spanair at a time of heavy public spending cuts.

"When we learned this morning that the merger was not going to happen in time and that the Catalonia government was not going to contribute more funds, the most sensible and safe decision was to close down operations," he said.

In 2008 one of Spanair's jets crashed on take-off at Madrid airport with the deaths of 154 people.

Spanair's former owner, Scandinavian airline SAS, said yesterday the Spanish carrier's bankruptcy would hit its own results to the tune of €191 million.

AFP