Madrid-Barajas Airport (IATA: MAD, ICAO: LEMD) is the main international airport serving Madrid in Spain.
In 2010, over 49.8 million passengers used Madrid-Barajas, making it the country's largest and busiest airport, and in 2009 it was the world's 11th busiest airport and Europe's fourth busiest airport. It opened in 1928, and has grown to be one of the most important aviation centres of Europe. Located within the city limits of Madrid, just 9 km (5.6 mi) from the city's financial district and 13 km (8.1 mi) northeast of the Puerta del Sol, Madrid's historic centre. The airport name derives from the adjacent district of Barajas, which has its own metro station on the same rail line serving the airport.
The Madrid-Barcelona air shuttle service, known as the "Puente Aéreo" (in Spanish), literally "Air Bridge", is the busiest air route in Europe, with the highest number of flight operations (971 per week) before 2007. The schedule has been reduced since February 2008, when the Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line was opened, covering the distance in 2½ hours, and quickly became popular. Barajas serves as the gateway to the Iberian peninsula from the rest of Europe and the world, and is a particularly key link between Europe and Latin America. The airport is the primary hub and maintenance base for Iberia. Consequently, Iberia is responsible for more than 60 percent of Barajas' traffic.
The airport was first constructed in 1927, opening to national and international air traffic on 22 April 1931, although regular commercial operations began two years later. A small terminal was constructed with a capacity for 30,000 passengers a year, in addition to several hangars and the building of the Avión Club. The first regular flight was established by Líneas Aéreas Postales Españolas (LAPE) with its line to Barcelona. Later, in the 1930s international flights started to serve some European and African destinations.
Originally, the flight field was a large circle bordered in white with the name of Madrid in its interior, unpaved, consisting of land covered with natural grass. It was not until the 1940s that the flight field was paved and new runways were designed. The first runway which started operation in 1944 was 1,400 metres long and 45 metres wide. By the end of the decade the airport had three runways, none of which exists today. In the late 1940s, scheduled flights to Latin America and the Philippines started.
In the 1950s, the airport supported over half a million passengers, increasing to 5 runways and scheduled flights to New York City began. The National Terminal, currently T2, began construction in 1954, and was inaugurated later that year. In the Plan of Airports of 1957, Barajas Airport is classified as a first-class international airport. By the 1960s, large jets were landing at Barajas, and the growth of traffic mainly as a result of tourism exceeded forecasts. At the beginning of the decade, the airport reached the 1.2 million passengers, double that envisaged in the Plan of Airports of 1957.
In the 1970s, with the boom in tourism and the arrival of the Boeing 747, the airport reached 4 million passengers, and began the construction of the international terminal (current T1). In 1974, Iberia, L.A.E. introduced the shuttle service between Madrid and Barcelona, a service with multiple daily frequencies and available without prior reservation.
The 1982 FIFA World Cup brought significant reforms to the airport, with the expansion and reform of the two existing terminals.
In the 1990s, the airport expanded further. In 1994, the first cargo terminal was constructed, and the control tower was renovated. In 1997, it opened the North Dock, which is used as an exclusive terminal for Iberia's Schengen flights. In 1998, it inaugurated a new control tower, 71 m tall, and then in 1999 the new South Dock opened, which implies an expansion of the international terminal. During this time, the distribution of the terminals changed: The south dock and most of the International Terminal were now called T1, the rest of the International Terminal and Domestic Terminal were now called T2 and the north dock was called T3.
In November 1998, the new runway 18R-36L started operations (replacing the previous 18–36), 4,400 m long, one of the largest in Europe under expansion plans called Major Barajas. In 2000, it began the construction of new terminals T4 and its satellite, T4S, designed by architects Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers, and two parallel runways to the existing ones.
The new terminals and runways were completed in 2004, but administrative delays and equipment, as well as the controversy over the redeployment of terminals, delayed service until 5 February 2006.
In 2007, the airport processed more than 50 million passengers.
Terminal 4, designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers (winning team of the 2006 Stirling Prize), and TPS Engineers, (winning team of the 2006 IStructE Award for Commercial Structures) was built by Ferrovial and inaugurated on February 5, 2006. Terminal 4 is one of the world's largest airport terminals in terms of area, with 760,000 square meters (8,180,572 square feet) in separate landside and airside structures. It consists of a main building, T4 (470,000 m²), and a satellite building, T4S (290,000 m²), which are approximately 2.5 km apart. The new Terminal 4 is meant to give passengers a stress-free start to their journey. This is managed through careful use of illumination, with glass panes instead of walls, and numerous domes in the roof which allow natural light to pass through. With this new addition, Barajas is designed to handle 70 million passengers annually.
During the construction of Terminal 4, two more runways (15L/33R and 18L/36R) were constructed to aid in the flow of air traffic arriving and departing from Barajas. These runways were officially inaugurated on February 5, 2006 (together with the terminals), but had already been used on several occasions beforehand to test flight and air traffic manoeuvres. Thus, Barajas came to have four runways: two on a north-south axis and parallel to each other (separated by 1.8 km) and two on a northwest-southeast axis (and separated by 2.5 km). This allowed simultaneous takeoffs and landings into the airport, allowing 120 operations an hour (one takeoff or landing every 30 seconds).
Terminals 1, 2 and 3 are adjacent terminals that are home to SkyTeam and Star Alliance airlines, as well as Air Europa. Terminal 4 is home to Iberia, its franchise Air Nostrum and all Oneworld partner airlines. Gate numbers are continuous in terminals 1, 2 and 3 (A1 to E89), but are separately numbered in terminal 4.
Barajas was voted "Best Airport" in the 2008 Condé Nast Traveller Reader Awards.
In December 2010, the Spanish government announced plans to tender Madrid-Barajas airport to companies in the private sector for a period of up to 40 years.