Summer 2019

Seville Airport: on the up

As we saw in a previous article, Seville Airport might be a very natural location for the deployment of a modern, all-electric apron bus: it is a gateway that welcomes change. Jesús Caballero, director of Seville Airport, talks to Airside about its rapid growth and how the airport is attracting new traffic

Seville Airport has seen very passenger volumes since 2013 when you came to the gateway. How have you facilitated that growth?

Seville Airport has worked intensely in recent years to promote air connectivity, and has done so in several ways:

  • Through collaboration with local business, institutions and organisations promoting Seville as a tourist and business destination. The development of this partnership is precisely the reason for which the ‘Connecting Sevilla with the World’ group was founded. Attracting air traffic does not depend exclusively on the airport. There are highly influential factors such as the demand that the destination is capable of generating and the guarantees that we can give to an airline that its flights will arrive and depart with a high occupation rate. Hence the importance of this working group, which has allowed us to join forces, take advantage of synergies within the competencies of each of its members and draw up a common strategy
  • Identification of routes with a commercial dimension through [Spanish national airport operator] Aena’s Airline Relations and Airport Marketing Division. This division presents the opportunity and benefits of opening a new route
  • Providing marketing support through promotional events for new routes
  • Providing assistance for expos (Routes, IATA conferences and the like) to promote the opportunities offered by the airport
  • The application of very competitive airport rates in addition to bonuses to encourage those airlines that implement new routes or, where these are already in place, to increase the number of passengers flying on them

The balance of this collaboration with local institutions and the other areas of focus described above has been very positive. In 2018, for the first time in our history, we surpassed 6 million passengers. It was our second consecutive annual traffic record: in 2017, we handled over 5 million passengers. All this has been part of a process of development that has allowed us to diversify the number of operational airlines we welcome and the markets to which we offer connections.

In relation to the latter, I would highlight the international dimension that the airport has developed: in 2011, only 30% of our passengers were flying to or from a foreign destination. In 2018, that proportion was 50.1%. Because of this, we have gone beyond our strong dependence on the domestic market and have achieved a more balanced distribution of our traffic, without this having been detrimental to our links with Spanish destinations.

Since 2013, traffic passing through Seville Airport has risen significantly:

Number of Passengers3,687,7146,380,465
Number of airlines1020
Countries with routes1116
International traffic*38.7%50.1%
Cargo (tons)5,08912,562

* In relation to the total number of commercial passengers handled.

This summer (April to October 2019), we will have the best schedule in our history, with routes to 71 destinations (49 of them beyond Spain) operated by 22 airlines. Airlines have planned for 5.2 million seat sales and almost 31,600 flights, which is (in both cases) an increase of 20% compared to the 2018 summer season.

Much of that growth in passenger volumes has been down to additional Ryanair flights, has it not?

Yes, the number of Ryanair flights has increased considerably over recent years, but as indicated in the previous question, our growth has also been supported by an important diversification of operational airlines in our facilities.

Having said this, I trust that Ryanair wants to continue expanding its operations in Seville. The fact that Ryanair is basing their aircraft and has a maintenance depot at our airport shows a strong interest and connection to Seville. In addition, the city offers great tourism and business opportunities.

What else has contributed to the airport’s growth in passenger traffic?

Each new route is a success for us, because there has been an enormous amount of work put into introducing them beforehand. If I had to highlight any, I would opt for Krakow and Warsaw, since Seville Airport has never previously had direct connections with Poland. Eastern Europe is one of the markets in our spotlight regarding ongoing growth (at the beginning of this summer season, we inaugurated two new routes to Budapest and Vienna).

The increase in connectivity with Germany (with new routes introduced to Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Baden-Baden, Memmingen and Munich) and with the UK (with new routes to London, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh and Manchester) have also been very important, as there is significant latent demand in these two markets.

Other new routes have been launched to the likes of Cagliari, Catania, Treviso, Rabat, Tangier, Port, Luxembourg and Malta, amongst other destinations.

Regarding airlines, many carriers have begun to operate in our facilities in recent years. Among them are Lufthansa, British Airways, Edelweiss and Volotea.

You have plans to develop the airport terminal in order to cope with ongoing growth. Can you offer some detail on the additional landside and airside infrastructure that will be provided as part of that project?

Our current terminal building was inaugurated in July 1991. The obsolescence of the facilities, the airport’s air traffic growth, the transformation of the airport concept itself and the changes that the airlines have implemented in their operations required a structural update of the building beyond the improvements and small adaptations that we had been making to the terminal since 1991.

Therefore, the project of expansion and refurbishment of the building on which we are working will be the most ambitious we have undertaken in nearly 30 years. We plan to begin the works at the end of the first semester of 2019 and, if there are no setbacks, finish them towards the end of 2021.

This transformation will allow us to modernise our facilities, streamline airport processes, offer airlines more efficient stopover times and move from a declared operational capacity of 7.5 million passengers per year to more than 10 million, among other milestones.

The big challenge will be to combine the execution of these works with routine airport operations, trying to maintain our quality parameters for our customers.

Aena will invest more than 60 million euros [US$66.8 million] in the terminal building, as well as in two other important projects: the repaving of the runway and the expansion of the power station.

The main changes at the terminal building will be:


Useful space (m2)        NowAfter the refurbishment
Departures hall4,8004,300
Passenger screening8001,200
Boarding lounge5,1008,440
Commercial area3,6006,200
Passport controls at arrivals400550
Baggage claim hall2,9504,500
Arrivals hall1,0001,430

Seville is also an important cargo hub for southern Spain; do you envisage this aspect of the airport’s business growing in coming years as well and, if so, how will you support that growth?

Seville Airport handled more than 12,000 tons of cargo in 2018 for the first time in its history. The fact that e-commerce is booming and the presence of the Airbus facility [located at the airport] lie behind this.

Currently, the world’s three most important cargo operators – DHL, FedEx and UPS – are based at Seville Airport, so we trust that cargo will continue to grow. These operators have huge development potential, but there is also an important project in the city of Seville linked to a respected company in e-commerce that could be a great incentive for the business of cargo operators.

Growth will depend on the evolution of demand and the solutions that the cargo operators want to provide as a result. As an airport, we will give them all the services that they need.

How are you ensuring that quality of service as well as quantity of traffic remains high?

In 2018, Seville Airport won ACI Europe’s Best Airport Award in the ‘5-10 million passengers’ category. This award represented recognition of the enormous effort made over the last five years to improve the quality parameters of our facilities and the services we offer to airlines and passengers.

This effort has been structured around two areas. On the one hand, in 2013 we joined ACI’s Airport Service Quality (ASQ) programme, a quality measurement system that allows us to test the level of service that we offer and to compare it with that of similar-sized airports around the world, with the added demands that this entails.

Plus, in 2014 Seville Airport launched a quality plan that entailed the emergence of a hundred initiatives, to which new ones have been added as the former were completed. The fundamental objective of these measures is to ensure that both passengers and airlines enjoy the best possible experience at the airport.

The great challenge ahead of us right now is the refurbishment of the terminal building and the repaving works of the runway. These are two enormous restructuring programmes that we will have to combine with the usual operations at our airport. In this sense, our priority will be to ensure that the process of development is as comfortable and trouble-free as possible for passengers and airlines.

We will also keep working, as is to be expected, on new routes and continue to improve the experience of our passengers.