Hundreds of passengers are now queuing at airline desks in Alicante airport as they attempt to either get onto a rescheduled flight or to claim a refund for the disruption and inconvenience caused by Wednesday’s fire.
As they do so the fire zone remains closed and guarded by police.
There are also hundreds of passengers checking in with many having already passed through security and the boarding gate. The first flight took off destined for Brussels just after 2pm as, gradually, the airport and it procedures are regaining normality although there are still a lot of areas closed off and there is also a large police presence.
The fire at the Alicante-Elche airport has seen 36 flights diverted to the Murcia International Airport on Thursday, 18 of them departures and another 18 arrivals. Three further aircraft, with flights scheduled from Alicante on Wednesday, also spent the night at Corvera airport so, in total, Corvera airport received and despatched a total of 39 additional flights as a result of the Alicante fire.
Most of the 39 flights were operated by Ryanair, together with Easyjet and Jet2, with most of them destined for the United Kingdom, for London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Edinburgh.
In a statement issued by Aena, one of many that we have seen in the last 24 hours, the management company said that Corvera coped with the additional capacity extremely well while managing to deal with its own operations normally.
However, Aena did have to supplement the Corvera airport services with additional handling agents, aircraft maintenance and refuelling engineers amongst others.
“Repairing the airport will take some time and will require cutting-edge technology at one of the country’s most prestigious airport, a facility that handles hundreds of thousands of visitors a year,” said the Emergency Secretary, José María Ángel, highlighting the coordination effort will be no easy task.
Aena sources also reported that firefighters had been working all night and that progress was made with the control of fire, but it’s extinction was much more complicated than was first thought.
The tasks were very complex because of the location of the fire, an area that presented difficult access, and also because of the composition of the roofing materials (thermal insulation, asphalt cloth, wood and metal plates, among other components), which rendered the foam not entirely effective.
The combustion generated a large amount of smoke, which was very visible from miles around. The fire affected more than 1,200 square meters of roof space as well as the VIP area of the airport, and occupied over 30 firefighters from the Elche and San Vicente del Raspeig parks of the Provincial Consortium of the Diputación de Alicante, and a further from the airport itself, through the night.
A crisis cabinet formed by the subdelegate of the Government in Alicante, Araceli Poblador, the president of the Diputación, Carlos Mazón and the mayors of Alicante, Luis Barcala, and Elche, Carlos González, was convened, together with the recently appointed airport director, Laura Navarro which met last night and again this morning.
Of course what we don’t yet know is the economic impact that the fire will have as a result of the cancellation, delay and diversion of flights, affecting almost 40,000 passengers, and how it will affect the future operation of the terminal, particularly in the short term.
With Easter less than 3 months away the airport management will have little time for post-mortems and reproaches, or to sit on their laurels as they work toward restoring normality for the thousands of holidaymakers who, despite the fire, will still be Alicante bound.