Sandstorm forces flight cancellations, airport closures on Canary Islands

Image of Gran Canaria Airport published by the air navigation provider. Photo: © ENAIRE / via Twitter

An ongoing sandstorm has forced airports on Spain’s Canary Islands to temporarily halt flight operations. All eight commercial airports on the archipelago are hit by massive numbers of flight cancellations.

On Saturday, Spanish airport operator Aena and Air Traffic Control provider ENAIRE first confirmed that the Sahara-originated sandstorm (called ‘Calima’) is affecting flight operations on the Canaries. Most flights were cancelled over the weekend. Some arriving aircraft were forced to perform go-arounds or diversions.

In an update posted on late Sunday evening, Aena said that 822 flights have already been affected by the unusual weather phenomenon. It continues to state that Tenerife South Reina Sofia Airport (IATA: TFS) remains closed.

A few hours earlier, the Canary Island’s two regional carriers, Binter Canarias and Canaryfly, had confirmed that they have cancelled all flights for the rest of the day. Mainland airline Air Europa states that it ‘hopes’ to resume flights to the islands on Monday, depending on the weather situation, after also cancelling all flights for Sunday.

Aena and ENAIRE confirmed on Monday evening, that more than half of all scheduled flights to or from Canarian airports operated normally over the day.

The Spanish archipelago consists of seven islands with a total of eight airports. Gran Canaria Airport (IATA: LPA) and Tenerife South are the two largest ones, with 13 and 11 million yearly passengers respectively. The islands are popular holiday destinations for travellers coming from Spain and the rest of Europe. Most leisure and low-cost airlines from the continent are serving the Canaries. British and German tourists account for the largest shares of international passengers.