- “We are panicking”
- People are not keeping safe distances
- Riots in front of the Vueling office
Alicante airport is currently operating at peak levels due to the mass exodus of tourists from the main tourist destinations in the south of Valencia and Murcia.
Dozens of flights arrive empty at the terminal to pick up passengers and return them to their countries of origin, mainly the United Kingdom, but also Germany, Belgium and Norway with take – off frequencies almost every five minutes
However there are also delays and cancellations many scheduled flights with hundreds of people crowded around departure gates in such numbers that they are unable to keep anything like the distances required for the personal protection measure to prevent contagion by the coronavirus.
“We have no protection measures and we are really scared. People who are facing the public are concerned about their safety. We have no masks and we don’t even have time to take a break or to go to the bathroom. I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this”, said Vanessa Esteve, a representative of the UGT Air Union in the Valencian Community.
There are currently two types of flights operating at Alicante Airport. There are charter flights from operators such as Jet2 who are arriving to pick up and to take their customers home and there are the regular scheduled flights, which have begun to fall because the companies are no longer able to move their aircraft profitably without passengers travelling in both directions.
This situation is causing tension, including a near riot by passengers wanting to fly to Algeria, only to find at the Vueling office that the flight had been cancelled.
“But there are many cancelled flights and there are also many people protesting because they have not been offered an alternative or relocated to a hotel,” Esteve explains.
The tension has forced the National Police to reinforce its presence at the airport to maintain order and to organise queues. Members of the Military Emergency Unit are being used to carry out disinfection tasks which they will continue to do for the next few days.
“Many passengers are not aware of the serious situation they are in. They queue for food at Burger King without respecting the personal distance of a metre. Here everything is open and the restaurant is working as if nothing has happened. There are many people leaving for the UK.”
Airport workers have contacted AENA asking for specific measures to protect the airport staff, with options for teleworking or rest breaks enabling them to use the canteen, according to the union official.
However sources from the airport company told the press that the situation was normalizing throughout the afternoon on Tuesday. Also that they have placed stickers on the floor to mark the safety distances and that gel dispensers have been placed in all security controls.
The ‘operation exit’ of tourists from Spain is accelerating and both traffic and the intensity of the operations will decrease in the coming days and hours. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Tuesday that airports have reduced their operations to 50% in terms of regular flights and he has not ruled out closing Spanish airspace in the framework of the state of emergency so people who want to leave the country should get a move on.
The Balearic Government has already asked 25,000 visitors to leave the islands due to the imminent closure of airports.