(This May 12 story corrects to make clear plane storage facility at airport is run by TARMAC Aerosave, not Teruel Airport)
TERUEL, Spain (Reuters) – Dozens of passenger jetliners belonging to European carriers stand idled in neat lines in a giant aeroplane parking lot amid the flat farmlands of eastern Spain.
TARMAC Aerosave specialises in the storage and maintenance of aircraft, and business at its Teruel Airport facility has boomed since coronavirus lockdowns globally forced airlines across Europe to ground fleets for several weeks. No end is in sight for many.
Planes showing the markings of commercial airlines including British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France stand parked, buffeted by the spring wind blowing across the plain.
“Teruel’s climate is dry – semi-desert with more than 250 days of sun per year,” said airport manager Alejandro Ibrahim.
“Also there is very little air traffic congestion which makes it the ideal place for plane preservation and maintenance.”
The airport currently hosts 95 wide-body aircraft, including eight of the world’s largest passenger airliners – the Airbus A380. The number of planes arriving per week to be parked in the airport has doubled since the start of the global pandemic.
Two Air France Airbus A380s arrived on April 25, the first ever to be hosted at the airport. Eight of this model are now parked on the lot.
The airport, owned by the local government, has not increased its rates since the beginning of the crisis, Ibrahim said, speaking about landing and parking taxes. TARMAC Aerosave said it had not increased its rates for aircraft storage and maintenance since the start of the pandemic.
Built on the site of an aerodrome used during Spain’s 1936-1939 Civil War, it has a view of distant mountains.
Global aviation is facing a battle to survive, with most flights grounded since March due to travel restrictions to contain the pandemic. Airlines across Europe, including Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, have sought state rescues.
The sudden stop to air travel has led to airlines struggling to find space to store their planes. In Europe, some airlines have grounded their entire fleets and are storing their aircraft by parking them in airports, including on now-unused runways.
(Writing and additional reporting by Sonya Dowsett, Editing by Angus MacSwan)