Barcelona: Business aviation destination guide
ALERT: For the latest Barcelona COVID travel restrictions visit our article on Europe COVID Ops.
Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain and has become even more popular as a business and tourism destination over recent years. If you have a trip to this beautiful and culturally inspiring part of the world, it’s something to look forward to. Barcelona (LEBL) is an accommodating airfield and not a difficult proposition from the regulatory perspective; however, there are specific local procedures and restrictions to be aware of.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Airport options
LEBL is the primary airport for Barcelona, with Girona (LEGE) as the alternate option if aircraft parking becomes an issue. For General Aviation (GA) operations to Barcelona, LEBL is the most frequently used airfield and usually the airport of choice. Runways, taxiways, and ramp areas at LEBL are in good condition
Drive-time from LEBL to city center 15-20 minutes.
LEBL is a 24-hour airport of entry with no noise restrictions or curfews for Stage 3 and above operations. Peak hours of scheduled commercial activity are typically 0700-1400 local, but this location seldom experiences arrival/departure holds or delays.
Airport slots are needed for all private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial) operations into/out of LEBL. Slots should be requested as soon as the schedule is known, but short-notice slot requests – within a few hours – are usually possible. Slot deviation is -/+ 10 minutes for arrival and -/+15 minutes for departure. Revising airport slots is generally not problematic at LEBL. If passengers are running late, your ground handler will typically be able to coordinate a later slot and will file a “ready” message shortly before the time you wish to depart.
Prior Permission Required (PPR) is not usually necessary for LEBL. During hectic local event periods, however, PPR mandates may be in place for limited periods. Always confirm this with your 3rd-party provider or ground handler in advance.
Approximately 40 GA parking spots are available at LEBL, and these are conveniently located close to the GAT. LEBL has no restrictions on aircraft size. If you have large, wide-body equipment, such as an Airbus A340 or Boeing 777/747, you’ll be parked on the commercial/airline side and transported to the GAT for CIQ clearance. Otherwise, you’ll be parked next to the GAT. Depending on the GA ramp parking spot, you may be able to power in/out or require a push back. Parking costs at LEBL are based on maximum takeoff weight. There are no length-of-stay parking limitations here unless a sizeable local event is going on. During periods of high congestion, airport authorities may advise you to leave after a certain amount of time. In rare cases, when airport congestion is significant, you may need to drop and go at LEBL and reposition your aircraft elsewhere.
2. FBOs and ground handling
A 24-hour GA Terminal (GAT) is available at LEBL, with Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) clearance on site 24H. There is a consortium of three ground support providers managing the GAT, one of which is Universal Aviation Spain. Universal Aviation Spain has an office located inside the GAT, with its own private VIP and crew lounges as well—free for its customers.
It’s best to provide your ground handler with at least 24-hours advance notification to set up ground handling. However, requests with just an hour’s advance notice can usually be accommodated. Your ground handler will coordinate airport slots and all service requests as needed. Spain does not issue specific airport slot numbers. What needs to be added to remarks section 18 of the flight plan is the chosen handling agent and the FBO used by that handling agent, for example, HANDLING BY UNIVERSAL/FBO1-SFM. Schedule changes are only problematic if airport curfew hours are impacted.
Always provide your ground handler with aircraft type, registration (tail number), flight number if non-private flight, and estimated arrival time. GenDec is always needed, but especially for international arrivals from outside the Schengen area, provide the crew/passenger information in advance so your ground handler can advise Immigration. The full schedule is needed in advance at most Spanish airports, as airport slots need to be arranged for arrivals and departures. A to-be-advised (TBA) schedule is not accepted in case airport slots are required for this reason.
All 3rd-party services, including in-flight catering, transportation, and aircraft services, can be set up on credit by your ground handler. If in-flight catering menus are needed, they’ll be provided to the operator. Your ground handler will look after all government fees on credit. Ground handling charges, landing fees, and aircraft parking charges are based on maximum takeoff weight (MTOW). Airport taxes for customs/immigration services are charged based on passenger count, not crew. Estimated invoices for ground handling and all associated service charges can be generated before arrival.
At this location, you may only use an auxiliary power unit for 10 minutes after landing and 10 minutes before departure. If more time is needed, it needs to be coordinated with ATC through your Handling Agent. All operations to LEBL, or any airport in Spain, must be Stage 3 or Stage 2 hush-kitted to Stage 3 standards. Stage 2 movements are not permitted. If airport authorities check and determine that you’re operating with Stage 2 equipment, there will be issues. European Aviation Safety Agency agents perform random ramp checks from time to time to confirm aircraft and crew documentation.
High-quality hotels – including large international chains – are plentiful in the Barcelona area. The average price of a 4-star crew room is 140-150 Euros per night, but this increases during high season or special events – such as the Spanish Grand Prix or Barcelona Boat Show – are taking place.
4. Ground transport
It’s not recommended for crews unfamiliar with the area to rent vehicles in Barcelona. This is because local traffic is heavy, most road signs are in Spanish, and local drivers have their own individual driving techniques. Pre-paid (car with driver) transport or vetted taxi services are preferred options.
You can get a free quote for ground transportation through Universal-Drivania Chauffeurs.
There are a few different fuel suppliers on the field at LEBL, as well as hydrant fuel facilities on the commercial side. The GAT has no restrictions on which fuel supplier you may use. It’s best, however, to specify in advance which fuel supplier you’d like to deal with. Major aviation fuel cards are typically accepted. Still, it’s always a good policy to carry a fuel release.
6. In-flight catering
In-flight caterers are available at LEBL 24 hours, and they’re adept at meeting higher-end GA catering requirements. It’s always best to provide at least 24 hours’ advance notification of catering requirements, especially for special requests. However, catering at this location can usually be successfully sourced with just a few hours’ notice. It’s recommended that operators take advantage of in-flight caterers at LEBL, as local restaurants may not provide bulk food options or deliver food cooled to appropriate health standards.
You can check the free ACW Menu app for Air Culinaire Worldwide to see catering options and menus available.
LEBL is a very secure airfield complete with private and airport security services, proper fencing, secure airport access checkpoints, and regular patrols. Please note that private aircraft security is not possible or permitted at this location unless your flight is diplomatic. Private vehicles are not allowed airside at LEBL – other than for air ambulance and qualifying diplomatic operations.
Private flights do not require landing permits for operations to Spain, but charter movements by non-European Union (EU)-registered aircraft require permits. The Civil Aviation Authority operates Monday-Friday, 0900-2100 local, and is closed on weekends and holidays. When submitting all required documentation, plan on a minimum of four days’ advance notification to secure a landing permit for a first-time charter. Be mindful that a particular form must be filled out and submitted, along with appropriate documentation. Landing permits are required even for tech stops in Spain.
Landing permit requirements for Spain depend on the number of operations a charter company makes to the country during an International Air Transport Association (IATA) season (winter/summer).
For three or fewer charter operations per IATA season: operators must submit the application form and required documents. Required documents include:
- Air operator certificate
- Aircraft noise certificate
- Aircraft registration and airworthiness certificates
- Insurance certificate, including EU liability coverage for bodily injury to passengers, damage to baggage/cargo, and general 3rd-party liability
For four or more charter operations per IATA season: operators must submit additional documentation and be accredited by Spain’s Air Safety Agency. Additional documentation includes:
- Security plan to deal with acts of unlawful interference
- Letter of approval/acceptance of your security plan from the aeronautical authority of aircraft registry
- Accreditation of your representative (ground handler) in Spain
In most cases, crew, including pilots, flight mechanics, and flight attendants, do not require visas for Spain as long as they have a valid passport and crew ID. Passengers, depending upon nationality, may require visas. Cabotage is not permitted for any charter (non-scheduled commercial) nor scheduled commercial flight. Many ramp inspections are done. If cabotage has been performed, significant fines may apply along with denial for future operations for a specified period. In most cases, crew, including pilots, flight mechanics, and flight attendants, do not require visas for Spain as long as they have a valid passport and crew ID. Passengers, depending upon nationality, may require visas.
Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) clearance at the LEBL’s general aviation terminal usually take about five minutes for arrival and 10-15 minutes for departure, depending on the number of passengers. Suppose you need to reclaim value-added tax before an international departure. In that case, this can be accomplished at the main terminal (ensure you have all accompanying receipts). Onboard pets are permitted so long as the animal has a pet passport or is microchipped, and you have evidence of current vaccinations, as well as a vet letter stating health status. Spain is refreshingly lenient in terms of arriving international food and in-flight catering items. Suppose you wish to bring in catering for the next leg of your travel. In that case, it’s best to communicate with a 3rd-party provider or ground handler, but it’s usually not an issue.
For operations after regular CIQ hours, overtime is possible with a couple of hours’ advance notification. For operations between 2359 and 0559 local, there’s no surcharge for CIQ service, but it needs to be requested in advance.
In most cases, crew, including pilots, flight mechanics, and flight attendants, do not require visas for Spain as long as they have a valid passport and crew ID as long as they leave the country as crew if they plan to do a crew change and depart as a passenger on an airline flight VISA will be required. Passengers, depending upon nationality, may require visas.
Some foreign nationals may obtain visas on arrival, while others must have visas issued in advance. In some cases, passengers who are staying no more than 24 hours in Spain will be issued a pass in place of the required visa.
Always check with your ground handler or trip support provider before arrival on passenger and crew visa requirements and 24-hour pass options in passengers’ cases. There are certain situations, depending upon the aircraft’s nationality, where police may be present plane-side to confirm documentation of all crew and passengers on arrival. Although this is not the norm, it can happen from time to time.
Always check with your ground handler in advance for restrictions on bringing agricultural and other items into Spain. In-flight catering from international flights may not be brought into the country. Still, it may be kept, on a case-by-case basis, at the airport under the care of your ground handler. However, please check with the ground handler to ensure they have the space and refrigeration you may require for any perishable food items.
11. Flight planning
In Spain, flight plans must be filed via AFTN or SITA or in-person with ATC. There are no charges or fees for filing flight plans. However, suppose you’re not using a 3rd-party provider or a ground handler. In that case, the pilot will have to physically go to ATC and pay all arrival/departure fees before filing a flight plan. It’s more efficient to have a 3rd-party provider or ground handler do this. Full credit will be extended for all the arrival/departure fees. Non-European Union (EU) charter operators must have a landing permit before filing any flight plan, as they may be fined at Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) determination.
When the crew arrives at the airport in preparation for departure, the ground handler will have your flight plan, crew briefing, weather package, and confirmations of any in-flight catering and other requested services available. If you are doing your own flight plan, advise the ground handler of this on arrival to make the appropriate arrangements. Whoever files the flight plan needs to ensure that the route is correct and accepted through Eurocontrol’s Network Management (NM). Madrid Control will forward flight plan information to ATC only 30 minutes before the flight. So, if you contact ATC more than 30 minutes before departure, they will not have the flight plan information in their system yet. If you choose to depart early, you’ll need to secure a new departure airport slot and re-file the flight plan.
TCAS II and 8.33 KHz radio channel spacing above FL195 is required for all operations to Europe. Aircraft must be equipped and certified for reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM), and both pilots must be RVSM qualified. Stage 2 aircraft are banned in Spain. If you’re operating a Stage 2 aircraft that’s been upgraded to Stage 3 standards, you must furnish appropriate documentation. Be aware that airport authorities conduct random ramp checks to confirm that operators have correct aircraft and crew documentation.
Barcelona’s weather is pleasant for most of the year. However, you’ll experience the absolute best weather from May to the end of July, making these months particularly attractive for visiting the city. September is also a good month.
August is generally hot (sometimes peaking around 34°C, 95°F ) and humid, so if you love saunas, then this is the time of the year for you. Seriously though, the extra humidity makes the temperature seem even hotter. If you decide to visit Barcelona in August, then make sure to choose a hotel room with air conditioning.
The weather in October and November is still pleasant but starts to get a little cooler (21°C down to 15°C, 69 to 59°F). You won’t find sunshine every day, though, so be prepared for days when it could be overcast with a bit of rain.
Remember, these are only guidelines, and the weather can vary somewhat from year to year. Especially in the last few years, there have been some fluctuations from the norm.
From November to February, the temperatures are cooler, averaging around 12°C or 53°F. It doesn’t tend to rain a lot here in Winter, so even though it may be cooler, frequently you’ll have some sunny days too. But do be prepared for some overcast and rainy days. It’s all the luck of the draw.
13. Tech stops
For tech stops, passengers and crew members typically do not need to clear CIQ but may, on rare occasions, be examined at CIQ’s discretion.
14. Peak season
Peak season in Barcelona is the summer. But operators should also expect high traffic during the annual Spanish Grand Prix and Mobile World Congress.
15. Regulatory considerations
Be aware of French air controllers going on strike. Additionally, regulations due to air congestion may apply if flying to the northeast.
16. Other considerations
- Vaccinations: See COVID article.
- Language: English is a language spoken by most citizens, especially in hotels, restaurants, etc.
- Special documentation: n/a
- Pets: Requirements for bringing pets includes providing all the international vaccinations, documents, and passport
- Weapons: Weapons may be brought into Spain aboard diplomatic flights. Non-diplomatic operators may import hunting equipment with proper advance arrangements. The weapon owner must have a license for it, and the company hosting the hunting trip must provide supporting documentation to the ground handler, who will forward this to customs. It’s recommended that supporting documentation be sent to your handler at least a few days in advance. Ammunition may be imported but, depending on quantity, may be considered dangerous goods and require special handling. There’s an on-airport facility at LEBL to store weapons/ammunition if you have not secured advance permission to bring it into the country.
Barcelona is one of the better no-hassle operating destinations within the EU, and parking availability is usually plentiful at this location.
While charter operations should plan on extra lead time when operating to Spain, private flights face minimal procedural or documentation challenges. In most cases, airport slots for Barcelona (LEBL) are easy to adapt when schedules need to be changed.