Air Madrid crisis

Over the past two days, ever since the Spanish low cost airline Air Madrid cancelled all its operations on Friday in response to government threats to withdraw the company’s licence because of repeated delays and cancelled flights, the angry scenes witnessed at several Spanish airports have turned into expressions of grief and desesperation as passengers expecting to fly home this weekend and spend Christmas with their families, have had to face up to the idea that they might have to spend their holidays alone in Spain, despite having bought their flights months ago.

Until Friday, Air Madrid operated flights to 12 destinations in Latin America, and the low prices and online booking offered by the airline drew thousands of customers from communities of Latin American immigrants living and working in Spain to send money home to their families. For many of these people, this year was going to be the first Christmas spent at home with their families for years.

Representatives from the Transport Ministry said yesterday that the government’s priority was firstly to attend to passenger’s needs, even though in theory Air Madrid should have found alternative transport for all of its customers, and second to consider taking legal action against the company.

The airline has limited its response to publishing a communication on its website claiming that the “very serious” government threats and actions have forced it to cancel all flights and other services.

Yesterday Transport Ministry staff said they were doing all they could to help stranded passengers. The government’s main problem was first to identify just how many people were are affected by the crisis, and a Ministry spokesperson said that the only information given to the Ministry by Air Madrid to facilitate the location of affected customers was a list contained in a “lamentable” database .

So far in the past 48 hours the Ministry has managed to put over 7,000 passengers on alternative flights on routes already operated by other airlines, or on flights commissioned by the government itself.

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