Passenger occupation levels of the new Iberia Madrid-Gibraltar flight stands at approximately 50%, according to official figures released by the Spanish airline at the weekend and reported in the Gibraltar Chronicle.
The number of passengers recorded in the Madrid-Gibraltar route between December 16th 2006 when Iberia carried out the inaugural flight, and February 17th is 3,820, which represents 48.4% occupancy. For the Gibraltar-Madrid flight the number of passengers for the same period is slightly higher, 3,981 which is 50.4% occupancy. Meanwhile Rafael de Toca one of the 400 air commanders in Spain's emblematic national airline has told the Chronicle last week that Iberia pilots are trained to land in airports that are as complicated or even more so than Gibraltar. Speaking from the cockpit just minutes before taking off for Madrid, Rafael expressed great satisfaction at the historic breakthrough achieved by Iberia in establishing a regular service to the Rock. Asked about the technical difficulties posed by the local airport he said: "We undergo specific training for these types of airports. Coruña and San Sebastian have a similar landing space, a short airstrip and even more mountains surrounding it than Gibraltar," he said. Rafael who carried out two test flights to the Rock before the first official landing, said they had also been trained to perform the "military" type approach to the airfield that took account of restrictions that were formerly in place. He explained that pilots are on a rotation schedule which means that all of them will at some point be landing in Gibraltar. "This is a magnificent opportunity for Iberia and I am very proud to be covering the Gibraltar route. I also hope to get to know Gibraltar better since I have never actually visited the city" he added. Meantime in Parliament it was revealed that the Gibraltar government is talking to some 14 airline companies and six are already interested in starting regular services to the Rock.