Spain and Portugal are at the heart of key co-operation agreements on airspace that includes France and North Africa, writes Stuart Flitton.
The two main components to the expanding regional co-operation are the AEFMP, which now includes Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and the South West Functional Airspace Block.
The SWFAB includes the flight information regions of Spain and Portugal, southwest France, the Canary Islands, Casablanca and also the Santa Maria FIR, which is the biggest in Europe, covering the southeastern North Atlantic and is a gateway Central and South America.
This regional co-operation setup is supported technically and operationally by the AEFMP initiative, which is a vital part of the Single European Sky plan and its extension to Africa and the Americas.
The AEFMP began in 1990 with the agreement between Spain, Portugal and France to optimise, harmonise and integrate air navigation systems.
Six years later, the initiative took in Algeria and Morocco and has continued to consolidate with frequent revisions to plans and goals and the incorporation of Tunisia last month.
The SWFAB dates back to May 2001 when the Spanish air traffic service provider, Aena, and its counterpart, NAV Portugal, signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Seven years later the two providers began collaborating and this developed more earnestly four years later when a year of collaborative tasks took place involving all the potential participants.
This culminated in the signing of an agreement on May 17, 2013, between, the Spanish Minister for Public Works, Ana Pastor Julián and Portugal’s Economy and Employment Minister, Álvaro Santos Pereira.
These agreements have increased the importance Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport, the largest hub of air freight companies in Spain, with more than 1,430 flights each week. The Barajas Air Freight Facility was built in 1994 for Iberia Cargo and developed in two phases, starting with a 32.5-hectare development, followed by one of 8.8 hectares.
The heart of the facility is the 15,210 sq m general services building, with more than 125 air freight companies, airlines, GSAs, forwarders and customs agents, among others.
It handles more than 200,000 tonnes of cargo a year. Some 2,500 sq m is dedicated to perishable handling.
As well as offices, the building houses customs, border check facilities, a business centre with conference and meeting rooms and a commercial area with a bank and cafeteria.
The facility, including customs, never closes and serves the rest of Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
There are 36 loading and unloading bays, and an automated warehouse with 375 pallet positions.
IAG Cargo was formed from the merger of Iberia Cargo and British Airways World Cargo in 2011 after the founding of IAG from those two airlines.
The freight division has further taken in BMI Cargo and has a total workforce of more than 2,700 and a global network of more than 350 destinations.
There is an express postal service through the subsidiary Cacesa.
IAG Cargo regional commercial manager Spain/Portugal Idoia Martinez, says that Madrid is one of the most important gateways for perishable cargo travelling from Latin America into Europe and beyond.
“Notable commodities travelling on this route include fish from Chile, fruit from Central America, flowers from Quito and Bogota and meat from Argentina.”
Madrid is also an important hub for life-saving pharmaceutical shipments travelling on IAG’s Constant Climate product from Europe into 32 destinations in Latin America with more than 400 flights a week.
A year ago, IAG Cargo began a new service between Madrid and Basel, chiefly serving the Swiss pharmaceutical industry. The route was launched after a three-month trial, which attracted new business, eager to gain access to the important Latin American markets.
Last month, IAG Cargo began the first direct flight between Madrid and San Francisco, which was a significant expansion in the company’s operations to and from the United States. There are three flights a week, using an Iberia A330-200, capable of carrying 14 tonnes of freight on each flight. The San Francisco route is predominantly loaded with textiles, spare parts, and machinery.
The services from Madrid will increase again later this year with daily flights to Tel Aviv, as part of the 2018 summer schedule. This route will involve significant shipments of textiles and pharmaceuticals from Spain.
“We’re working hard with all our customers to ensure that we are accessible and easy to do business with,” Martinez says.
“We relaunched our new website last year, which has dramatically shortened the online booking time. Many customers are also benefiting from our new reward scheme for smaller forwarders, FWD.REWARDS.”
Another important sector for IAG is non-medical perishables, such as fresh flowers and food, including exotic fruit, seafood and confectionery, which are conveyed in high-class, precision temperature-controlled facilities.
Animal transport is another specialist area covered by IAG with its own vets and animal handlers assuring compliance with IATA rules, Live Animal Regulations and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.