Spain’s busiest airport, Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas (MAD), has been forced to close overnight due to adverse weather. Storm Filomena has brought heavy snowfall to much of a country generally better-known for its sunnier weather. The difficult conditions are expected to continue today.
Disruption since yesterday evening
The extensive disruption to the airport’s (and indeed the whole country’s) operations resulted from Spain’s heaviest snowfall in almost half a century. While flights did manage to operate for much of yesterday, the situation worsened later in the evening. The tweet below from flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.com shows multiple aircraft in holding patterns just after 21:00.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) January 8, 2021
The adverse weather caused multiple diversions to the inbound flights, and cancellations to planned departures. The airport’s operator, Aena, confirmed on Twitter that 312 flights in and out of Madrid operated yesterday. Alongside these were 27 cancellations and 26 diversions.
One flight that did manage to slip through the cracks was Iberia flight IB2800 to Pamplona. This service operated by the Spanish flag carrier was carrying the Real Madrid football team. ‘Los Blancos’ face Pamplona-based CA Osasuna in a league match tonight.
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According to data from FlightRadar24.com, IB2800 arrived in Pamplona over three hours late. Departure from Madrid occurred at 22:39, with touchdown following just 34 minutes later at 23:13.
Efforts to clear the airport of snow
As the video below depicts, the airport has an immense job on its hands to clear its runways and taxiways of snow. It shows the view from the cockpit of one of the last aircraft that did manage to land in Madrid yesterday evening.
— Felix Piquero (@FelixPiquero) January 8, 2021
Such weather is extremely rare in Spain. This means that airport staff may not be as well prepared to deal with the conditions compared to more typically wintery countries such as Canada. According to the BBC, a further 20 cm of snow is expected in the Spanish capital today, so an imminent return to operations at the airport is perhaps unlikely.
The coming hours and days
At the time of writing, FlightRadar24.com was only showing six flights currently inbound for Madrid. These are all transatlantic services from Latin-American destinations, and they will likely find that they too have to divert.
As for departing passengers, Spanish flag carrier Iberia is advising passengers not to travel to the airport. Meanwhile, its operator Aena stated earlier that it would not be issuing further information until this evening. This will give it time to assess its options after the extra snow, that is forecast to fall in Madrid today, arrives.
Due to adverse weather conditions, Madrid-Barajas Airport remains closed and suspends operations on Saturday the 9th until further notice. For your safety, we ask you kindly to not proceed to the airport.
— Iberia_en (@Iberia_en) January 9, 2021
⚠️Ante la previsión de nieve de las próximas horas y por seguridad, el Aeropuerto AS #Madrid–#Barajas paraliza sus operaciones durante todo el sábado día 9.
🔈Próxima información a las 20:00 horas.
➡️ Consulta con la aerolínea el estado del vuelo y no te dirijas al Aeropuerto. https://t.co/YzJ7va0uhT
— Aena (@aena) January 9, 2021
With the airport closed until further notice, and a significant amount of further snow expected, we may see the disruption continue all weekend, or even into next week. The BBC has stated that temperatures as low as -12°C are forecast for Madrid on Thursday.
Have you ever had to alter your travel plans due to adverse weather? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.