Spanish flag carrier Iberia has diverted five long-haul flights that were flying overnight from South America to Madrid to the Canary Islands off the coast of North Africa after a heavy snow from Storm Filomena forced Madrid Barajas airport to close to all departures and arrivals.
As well as chaos at Spains largest airport, hundreds of motorists were stranded in their cars overnight after as much as 20cm of snow descended on Madrid. Local authorities and the airport operator were ill prepared to deal with snow and icy conditions, leading to closed roads and runways.
Coronavirus restrictions meant the impact wasn’t as bad as what it could have been in pre-pandemic times but Iberia was still forced to divert 17 flights over the course of Friday, sending 10 planes to Barcelona, while six were diverted to Malaga and one ended up in Valencia. Nearly 3,000 passengers were hit by the diversions.
And five flights which departed South America bound for Madrid on Friday night will be diverted to the Canary Islands on Saturday. Iberia said the decision to reroute the aircraft away from the Spanish mainland was made because of the lack of hotel accommodation in other parts of Spain due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Flights from Bogotá, Cali, Quito, Havana and Santo Domingo will head to the Canary Islands, although Iberia was not immediately able to say how many passengers were impacted.
Iberia said many passengers were unable to leave Madrid Barajas airport on Friday night and had been forced to spend the night in the arrivals hall or in the airline’s Business Class lounge. Staffers have also been forced to work double shifts because employees on the next shift couldn’t get into work.
“Iberia is in permanent contact with the authorities so that the opening of road accesses to Barajas airport is considered a priority, taking into account, of course, the urgent humanitarian emergencies that are occurring throughout the Community of Madrid,” the airline said in a statement on Saturday.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.