In 2019, nearly six million Britons travelled through Alicante-Elche Airport. That represented an impressive 39.42 per cent of the total number of passengers last year, almost four times more than the next highest group by nationality, the Spanish.
So the big question is: will Brexit have a negative effect on these numbers, or at least stall further gains? According to the airport director, Laura Navarro, the answer is a resounding no. On the contrary… In an interview with EFE news agency, she said the airport was preparing for a six per cent increase in the number of British passengers in 2020 – or 350,000 more.
To that end, the airport is finalising an adaptation of its facilities to be ready for any foreseeable changes required as a result of the UK’s departure from the European Union. Among these initiatives is an update of automated border control equipment, which includes biometric and tracing analysis by the national police, and (after summer) work to improve the customs area and provide quick and efficient service for travellers as well as for goods being imported from or exported to British airports.
Like other international Spanish airport directors and government authorities, Laura Navarro is waiting for the outcome of negotiations between London and Brussels to determine the definitive conditions applying from 1 January 2021 for the transit of passengers and goods.
The United Kingdom operates outside the Schengen free movement treaty, she notes, and Alicante-Elche Airport aims to be ready for “all possible scenarios”.
In general, she says, Alicante-Elche Airport has made “relevant preparations” to try to minimise the Brexit effect, by speeding up operations and shortening waiting queues. She says she is convinced that British tourists will continue to choose Alicante’s Costa Blanca as a holiday and second home destination.
Currently, the airport maintains regular flights to and from 23 British destinations: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Doncaster, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, London Gatwick, London Luton, London Stansted, London Southend, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, Norwich and Southampton.
In some cases, such as London-Gatwick, Alicante-Elche has as many as eight daily connecting flights in summer, operated by six airlines; while Manchester is linked by six daily flights and six different airlines.
In a survey conducted by flights and hotels portal Jetcost last year, Alicante was the favourite destination in Spain for British tourists, followed by Málaga, Tenerife, Barcelona and Madrid.