Tips on Making Aircraft Ground Handling Arrangements in Spain
For business aircraft operators, Spain is generally a straightforward operating environment with minimal delays in customs clearance and full services/credit available at most locations. It’s always best to work with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler to confirm aircraft parking and required services well in advance, particularly during busy summer months.
1. Provide required information for ground handling
Always provide your ground handler with aircraft type, registration (tail number), and estimated arrival time. 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. For this reason, a to-be-advised (TBA) schedule is not accepted in case airport slots are required.
2. Be aware of paperwork requirements
Arrival/departure cards are required if your flight is coming from outside the Schengen area. Your ground handler will have a supply of these cards and can assist with completing them if passenger information is received in advance. Private (non-revenue) and charter (non-scheduled commercial) flights are handled similarly in Spain.
3. Understand the workflow process involved with a handling request
It’s best to provide your ground handler with at least 24-hours advance notification to set up ground handling, although requests with just an hour’s advance notice can usually be accommodated. Your ground handler will coordinate prior permission required (PPR), airport slots, and all service requests as needed. No specific PPR or airport slot numbers are issued in Spain, so no specific information needs to be added to remarks section 18 of the flight plan. Schedule changes are only problematic if airport curfew hours are impacted.
4. Operating and curfew hours must be considered
While Madrid Barajas (LEMD) is open 24 hours, Torrejon (LETO) only operates 0600 to 2359 local. Overtime is not available at LETO, and aircraft may need to divert to LEMD when LETO is closed. When landing at either LEMD or LETO, a yellow follow-me cart directs crew to the allocated aircraft parking area. Parking positions are determined by the airport authority and may be far from the terminal. Be aware that aircraft parking may not be available at your preferred airport during busy event periods or summer months at popular Mediterranean destinations. In some cases, you’ll receive an airport slot restricting you to drop off/pick up passengers and reposition to another airport.
5. Your ground handler can arrange all 4th-party services and airport fees on credit
All 4th-party services, including in-flight catering, transportation, and aircraft services, can be set up on credit by your ground handler. At many locations in Spain, ground handlers have a selection of ground support equipment (GSE), including crew vans, lav and potable water carts, ice machines, and ground power units (GPUs). 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 prior to arrival.
6. Be aware of the customs/immigration process
Crew and passengers clear customs/immigration either at the general aviation terminal (GAT) or main terminal, and your ground handler will coordinate on-airport transportation as needed. It’s not possible to clear onboard the aircraft or at a fixed base operator (FBO) except in the case of official diplomatic flights operating to LEMD. When clearing in the main terminal, crew and passengers use a separate line from commercial traffic, and clearance typically takes just a few minutes. Passengers requiring visas should have them before arriving in Spain, unless their country has an agreement with Spain (SEE LIST) to obtain upon arrival. Visas on arrival for approved nationalities are only possible at LEMD. Crew members do not require visas, regardless of nationality.
7. Be aware of turnaround times for technical fueling stops
For tech stops in Spain, quick turns are possible within 25 to 45 minutes depending upon the location. Best practice is to provide your ground handler with at least 24-hours advance notice and confirm that the fuel truck will be on standby for arrival. However, if shorter notice is given, the ground handler will try to accommodate all requests.
8. In-flight caterers are not located on airport
Scheduled commercial aviation in-flight caterers are located close to major airports in Spain, but not on the airports. If an operator prefers catering from a restaurant, this can be coordinated by the ground handler. Some scheduled commercial aviation in-flight caterers have an airport license to deliver orders planeside. Smaller in-flight caterers, however, do not have ramp clearance and must deliver to the ground handler, who’ll bring catering through security. If you want catering orders held at the airport, confirm in advance that your ground handler or FBO has refrigeration capacity available.
9. Rental vehicle facilities are not available on-airport at LETO
In general, rental vehicle companies have offices at or close to airports throughout Spain. However, LETO is a military airport, and there are no on-airport rental car facilities. Your ground handler, however, can make arrangements to have rental vehicles waiting on your arrival.
When operating to Spain, be aware of airport hours/curfews, and always confirm that passengers requiring visas have them prior to arrival. All 4th-party services are available on credit, but it’s best to give your ground handler 24-hours advance notification when possible. In-flight catering sourced from off-airport restaurants cannot be delivered directly planeside, so it’s important to coordinate such catering arrangements with your ground handler.
If you have any questions about this article, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.