Air Europa’s first direct flight from Madrid landed in San Juan Thursday evening, marking the start one more of the nonstop trans-Atlantic route to Spain and Europe, halted last year by Iberia Airlines.
“Our trans-Atlantic route seemed to have come to an end when, on December 2012, Iberia announced it would halt its direct flights between San Juan and Madrid. My administration, however, refused to accept the idea that this route was lost permanently,” said Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla during a news conference held to welcome the new flight.
“We reached an agreement with Air Europa that made it possible, as we can see it today, for the air carrier to operate each Thursday and Sunday nonstop flights from Madrid to San Juan and back to Madrid,” he added.
The trans-Atlantic flight will carry up to 229 passengers, 24 of them in business class seats. The route is expected to bring an average of 15,000 European tourists per year to Puerto Rico, pumping $38 million to the island’s economy during the first year. The government also projects that the new flights will create 15 direct jobs and another 450 indirect jobs.
“The arrival this evening of Air Europa is a cornerstone of our efforts to bring new life to the island’s air traffic,” the governor said.
Air Europa officials confirmed their plans to take over the Madrid-San Juan route in November 2013, saying they had found a “potential market” here after doing their market research. From the Spanish capital, Air Europa will offer connections to other major European cities such as London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Milan, Rome and Moscow.
The García-Padilla administration has set out to increase Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport passenger traffic from 8.4 million to 10 million in five years. This increase would allow the island to see an increase in spending by international visitors spending from $3.2 billion in 2012 to $4.3 billion at the end of 2017, a 34 percent jump, the governor said.
He emphasized that the increase in passenger traffic would be complemented with Puerto Rico’s insertion in the global aerospace industry through the recent agreement between the Commonwealth and Lufthansa Technik to create an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Aguadilla.
“But Air Europa’s Madrid-San Juan route has an even broader dimension, as we move to what we know is a new beginning. We are in the midst of a transformation that is taking us, step by step, to an economic recovery,” he said.