Spain's Madrid Provincial Prosecutor Eduardo Esteban said a provincial court was handling investigations of 175 controllers, while other provincial courts would be investigating cases against controllers in their areas (Typically Spanish/AFP, 09-Dec-2010). Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido said the controllers could eventually be charged with sedition and face jail terms under existing Spain's air navigation law. The protest was the culmination of a long-running dispute with the government over working conditions, work schedules and benefits. Prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero plans to keep the "state of alarm" in force for as long as necessary. It is estimated the strike will cost more than EUR400 million in damages.
Spanish air traffic controllers under investigation
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AENA: Spain's airport operator must cut charges, but airline yields are already falling
After much delay, in late Jan-2017 the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the airport regulation document setting AENA's airport charges for the next five years. The headline numbers include a 2.2% annual decline in charges from 2017 to 2021, equivalent to an overall cut of 11% through the period.
The legal framework prevents tariff increases before 2025, but the outcome was in contrast with the Spanish airport group's own proposal to freeze charges. Strong traffic growth of 11% to an all time high level of 230 million passengers in 2016 may have influenced the regulator's decision.
In response, AENA has decided to remove an incentive mechanism which rewards airlines for traffic growth with airport charge discounts. The removal of discounts is estimated to offset the 11% reduction by one third.
In fact, this discount scheme has been quite effective in stimulating traffic growth in recent years. However, traffic growth in Spain was also boosted in 2016 by high airline capacity growth switched from other (risk) markets. Airline yield declines are probably noticeably heavier than AENA's regulated price reduction.
SAS' new foreign bases in London & Spain show rare innovative thinking for a legacy airline
On 01-Feb-2017 SAS announced that it is to establish a new AOC in Ireland, with operational bases in London and Spain. It has yet to specify the airports that will become its first bases outside its three Scandinavian home countries. SAS is following a course established by Norwegian, apparently forgetting its previous objections to its LCC rival's approach.
Indeed, it seems that SAS' move is a pragmatic response to intense competition from LCCs, particularly from Norwegian. According to SAS' 2016 Annual Report, 65% of its ASKs compete with LCCs. Scandinavia's high labour costs are a significant handicap in competing with airlines that have bases outside the region.
Spain and UK are its two biggest markets outside Scandinavia, with London Heathrow its biggest non home airport. After years of cost reduction programmes – also years of initiatives aimed at enhancing the appeal of SAS' product and brand to its core target market of Scandinavia's frequent flyers – a bolder step is needed. SAS will be a very rare example of a European legacy airline with bases outside its home market, more than 20 years after market liberalisation presented the opportunity.