UK charter to use Lleida airport for Pyrenees
The Catalan government has announced that UK tour operator Neilson, in conjunction with Thomas Cook charter flights, will use the Spanish regional airport Lleida-Alguaire to access the Pyrenees next winter.
Over 20,000 British skiers and boarders are expected to pass through the airport, which is located north-west of the city of Lleida and about 2 hours 45 minutes or so south of Andorra La Vella. It cuts the previous longer transfer times from the French side of the mountain range, and likely the costs too. Six weekly charter flights are due to operate to Lleida, starting next December. And Neilson / Thomas Cook will stop using Toulouse airport for their packages, which has been their base for almost 20 years.
As part of the five-year deal, there may be more Spanish ski areas included in Neilson’s programme in the near future, which at present is mainly Andorra and Baqueira-Beret on the Spanish side. There are six main resorts in the Lleida province; as well as Baqueira, there is Espot Esqui, Boi Taull, Port-Ainé, Port del Compte, Tavascan and the only resort near Barcelona – Rasos de Peguera. Most of these are small family ski areas that have often been inaccessible to British visitors not prepared for their rather remote locations.
The Catalan government is said to be in the process of planning an expansion to Lleida airport, including a 1.5 million investment in a new terminal building – hopefully in time for the new season.
Current plans are for flights to operate on Sundays from the UK, out of London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Belfast. These will run from 18 December until 18 March 2012.