Andorra's unlikely, buzzing airline industry

 Picture: Andorra Airlines

Picture: Andorra Airlines

The tiny Pyrenean country of Andorra is an unlikely spot for airline activity, it does not even have an airport in its own territory, it is service by the small airport at the neighbouring Catalan town of La Seu d'Urgell.

Yet, in the past few weeks the place has been buzzing, not only one, but two airlines expect plan to start flights from La Seu/Andorra airport!

Air Andorra aims to connect La Seu to Barcelona, Toulouse, Madrid, Majorca, Ibiza and Lisbon with an ATR-72, while Andorra Airlines the Majorca, Madrid, Porto and Paris, also with ATRs.

If La Seu/Andorra operation is, in the best of circumstances, challenging, due to the relatively small size of the market and the operational constraints (the airport can not accomodate larger jet aircraft that could bring British and Russian skiers, two of Andorra's largest Winter markets, on charter flights), as well as better road links.

It is even more so, when the two airlines are expected to compete for such a small pie. For a start, and while no flights have taken off yet, the two "Andorra"-linked airlines are already arguing in court over their name and trademark rights.

La Seu airport has been the object of some recent improvement works that have render it operational again for commercial aviation. The airport had regular flights until the early 1980s, with Spanish domestic carrier Aviaco (later absorbed by its parent company Iberia) operating a shuttle service to Barcelona on a Fokker F-27.

This regional service was notoriously unreliable since the airport did not have the proper instruments to handle flights in adverse meterological conditions and it was finally cancelled for good.

A number of attempts have been made to reinstate commercial service since then, but so far one of the few that has enjoyed this privilege has been non other than Sir Elton John, that landed there on its own aircraft on the very same the day the airport was re-inaugurated!