Internal flights more popular than high-speed rail: 10% growth in a year

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Airlines have overtaken high-speed rail for passengers travelling within Spain, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

Over 2018, a total of 40.2 million residents and tourists took internal flights, an increase of 10% on 2017, whilst only half as many – 21.3 million – travelled by the fast-track AVE trains, which saw passenger growth of just 3.8% year on year.

Similar figures were seen in 2017 – national flight passengers increased by 8.1%, and AVE travellers by 3.7%.

In total, according to the INE, public transport links – buses, all types of trains, and airlines – within Spain’s borders rose by 3.1% on figures for 2017, with just over 4.9 billion passengers overall.

Urban transport, which covers buses and metro trains, saw a passenger rise of 2.7%, and inter-urban journeys, being coaches, rail and flights, increased by 3.6%.

Other than flights, the greatest rise was seen in metro passengers, at 4.6%, compared with 4.4% for other trains, 1.5% for round-town buses, 2.6% for inter-city coach links and 3.1% for ferries.

In December 2018 – the most recent month for which the INE has figures available – nearly 400 million passengers used public transport, an increase of 5.4% on the same month in 2017.

Round-town public transport use rose by 5.4% in December 2018 year on year, and inter-city transport use by 5.2% – although inter-city flights increased by 7.3% on figures for December 2017.

Travellers questioned on their transport choices said internal flights continue to be much cheaper than the AVE, and even quicker.

An AVE trip between, for example, Valencia and Madrid takes 90 minutes – compared with nearly four hours by car on the A-3 motorway – but by air is only around 45 to 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, the number of passengers using Alicante Elche airport rose 11.2% last month, according to the latest data released by Aena.
Almost 785,000 passengers used the airport last month, with passengers from the UK making the bulk of the 6,012 flights.
Valencia airport also saw significant increases, up 15.9% on last year, with over half a million passengers passing through.