Transatlantic flying time to Barcelona's El Prat Airport averages about 7 hours and 30 minutes from New York's JFK Airport. Other U.S. cities with direct flights to Barcelona are Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Newark, and Philadelphia. Low-cost carrier Norwegian Airlines also has direct routes from Fort Lauderdale, Oakland, Newark, and Los Angeles. Flying from other cities in North America usually requires a connection.
Nonstop flights from London to Barcelona average 2 hours and 30 minutes. Flights from the United Kingdom to a number of destinations in Spain are frequent and offered at competitive fares, particularly on low-cost carriers such as Ryanair or easyJet.
For air travel within the regions covered in this book there are numerous regular flights, but rates tend to be high, so consider alternative ways of getting around. Bilbao, Pamplona, and San Sebastián all have small airports, and flights do run from Barcelona to each of them. For travel between those cities, given the short distances involved, most people elect to go by train or car.
Iberia operates a shuttle, the puente aereo, between Barcelona and Madrid from 6:50 am to 9:45 pm; planes depart from Terminal 1 hourly, and more frequently in the morning and afternoon commuter hours. Flying time is about an hour and a half; given the time you need for airport transfers, many commuters now prefer the high-speed rail connection between Estació de Sants in Barcelona and Atocha Station in Madrid. You don’t need to reserve ahead for the shuttle flight; you can buy your tickets at the counter when you get to the airport.
Charter flights of varying prices routinely fly in and out of El Prat Airport. Top charter companies include NetJets, Global Jet Concept, and Luxaviation.
Most connecting flights arriving in Spain from the United States and Canada pass through Madrid’s Barajas Airport (MAD), but the major gateway to Catalonia and other regions in this book is Spain’s second-largest airport, Barcelona’s spectacular glass, steel, and marble El Prat del Llobregat (BCN). The second of two terminals, the T1 terminal, which opened in 2009, is a sleek ultramodern facility that uses solar panels for sustainable energy and offers a spa, a fitness center, restaurants and cafés, and VIP lounges. This airport is about 12 km (7½ miles) southwest from the center of Barcelona and is served by numerous international carriers, but Catalonia also has two other airports that handle passenger traffic, including charter flights. One is Girona-Costa Brava Airport (GRO) 12½ km (8 miles) southwest of Girona, 90 km (56 miles) north of Barcelona and convenient to the resort towns of the Costa Brava. Bus and train connections from Girona to Barcelona are convenient and affordable, provided you have the time. The other Catalonia airport is the tiny Reus Airport (REU), 110 km (68 miles) south of Barcelona and a gateway to neighboring Tarragona, Port Adventura theme park, and the beaches of the Costa Daurada. Both airports are considerably smaller than El Prat and offer the bare essentials: a limited number of duty-free shops, restaurants, and car hire services. Flights to and from the major cities in Europe and Spain also fly into and out of Bilbao’s Loiu (BIL) airport. For information about airports in Spain, consult www.aena.es.
Check first to see if your hotel in Barcelona provides airport-shuttle service. If not, visitors typically get into town by train, bus, taxi, or rental car.
Cab fare from the airport into town is €30–€35, depending on traffic, the part of town you’re heading to, and the amount of baggage you have (there’s a €3.10 surcharge for airport pickups/drop-offs, and a €1 surcharge for each suitcase that goes in the trunk). If you’re driving your own car, follow signs to the Centre Ciutat, from which you can enter the city along Gran Vía. For the port area, follow signs for the Ronda Litoral. The journey to the center of town can take 25–45 minutes, depending on traffic.
The Aerobus leaves Terminal 1 at the airport for Plaça de Catalunya every 10 minutes 5:35–7:20 am and 10:25 pm–1:05 am, and every 5 minutes 7:30 am–10:20 pm. From Plaça de Catalunya the bus leaves for the airport every 5 or 10 minutes between 5 am and 12:10 am. The fare is €5.90 one way and €10.20 round-trip. Aerobuses for Terminals 1 and 2 pick up and drop off passengers at the same stops en route, so if you’re outward bound make sure that you board the right one. The A1 Aerobus for Terminal 1 is two-tone light and dark blue; the A2 Aerobus for Terminal 2 is dark blue and yellow.
The train’s only drawback is that it’s a 10- to 15-minute walk from your gate through Terminal 2 over the bridge. From Terminal 1 a shuttle bus drops you at the train. Trains leave the airport every 30 minutes between 5:42 am and 11:38 pm, stopping at Estació de Sants, for transfer to the Arc de Triomf, then at Passeig de Gràcia and finally at El Clot–Aragó. Trains going to the airport begin at 5:21 am from El Clot, stopping at Passeig de Gràcia at 5:27 am, and Sants at 5:32 am. The trip takes about half an hour, and the fare is €4.10. But the best bargain is the T10 subway card; it gives you free connections within Barcelona plus nine more rides, all for €10.20. Add an extra hour if you take the train to or from the airport.
Transfers Between Airports
To get to Girona Airport from Barcelona Airport by train you have to first catch the RENFE train that leaves from the airport and then change at Barcelona Sants station. From Barcelona Sants you need to catch the train for Figueres and get off at Girona, two stops before. Travel times vary between 38 minutes and 2 hours 10 minutes depending on the train line. From there you will have to take a 30-minute bus ride, or a 17-minute taxi ride to the airport for around €25–€30. Allow yourself 30 minutes from the RENFE Girona station to the airport.
Sagales runs the Barcelona Bus shuttle buses between Girona airport and El Prat. The trip takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The schedules, set up to coincide with RyanAir arrivals and departures at Girona, are a bit tortuous; consult the Sagales website or call 902/130014 for bus information.
If you are traveling from North America, consider flying a British or other European carrier, especially if you are traveling directly to Barcelona or Bilbao. Though you may have to change planes in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, or even Rome, savings can be significant.
The least expensive airfares to Barcelona are priced for round-trip travel and must usually be purchased in advance. Airlines generally allow you to change your return date for a fee; most low-fare tickets, however, are nonrefundable.
On certain days of the week, Iberia offers minifares (minitarifas), which can save you 40% on domestic flights. Tickets must be purchased at least two days in advance, and you must stay over at your destination on a Saturday night.
American, United/Continental, Delta, and Iberia fly to Madrid and Barcelona; Norwegian Air Shuttle flies to Barcelona from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Orlando; US Airways and Air Europa fly to Madrid. Within Spain, Iberia is the main domestic airline; two independent airlines, Air Europa and Vueling, fly a number of domestic routes at somewhat lower prices.