Gibraltar set to lose its air supremacy

By David Eade
For as long as anybody can remember if you wanted to fly from the Gibraltar–Campo area it had to be from the Rock’s airport. However come July that is about to change which begs the question – should Gibraltar with its new air terminal well underway have cornered the helicopter market?

It has long been discussed that a helicopter link across the Strait from Ceuta should be established. However it has not been an easy route for the Spanish companies and authorities to travel because first environmental studies had to be carried out, permissions sought and then a heliport constructed alongside the Algeciras dockside.

How much easier it would have been to send the flights to Gibraltar instead where they could have linked with perhaps Spanish and UK flights.

The company Inaer already operates flights from Ceuta to Málaga and is confident that the new route will be a great success with two speedy helicopters and cheap ticket prices. There has been talk that in future Málaga could offer services to Algeciras and the town across the bay could be the hub for helicopter flights to Sevilla or elsewhere in Spain.

It would be no great surprise if Morocco was also on the future agenda. Surely Gibraltar should have been the hub for this cross Strait traffic.

Again this begs the question - given the future “joint use” of Gibraltar’s airport and the co-operation under Córdoba - could not this traffic have been channelled through the Rock instead? It would have meant a major traffic and passenger boost for the airport – and demonstrated Spain’s commitment to Gibraltar after the fiascos of the Madrid services.

The Algeciras heliport is due to be completed next month and the helicopters will be sweeping across the bay from July. Manuel Ruiz Domenech is the supervisor of the heliport project and says the facility will incorporate the latest technology.

Domenech knows what he is talking about because he is in charge of the heliport at Ceuta and was asked to oversee the Algeciras development by the Spanish airport authority, AENA. He says the main work is done and it’s just a matter of installing furnishings and computers. He is confident flights will be possible from July 1 but they will only start when the ministry, or more likely the minister, decides when he will officially inaugurate it.

So in six weeks time not only will Algeciras be Spain’s number one ferry port but also a helicopter destination. Given the fast passenger helicopters used by Inaer it may not be long before Algeciras has also cornered the market in local air transport connections as well.