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Thousands of passengers stranded as Spanair ceases operations

Spain’s government takes legal action against airline over its sudden closure and cancellation of flights

Spain’s government has launched legal action against Spanair after it ceased operations, resulting in cancellation of 220 flights and affecting thousands of passengers.

The airline’s sudden shutdown violates the country’s aviation regulations, a minister said on Saturday. An estimated 22,000 passengers who had booked seats on Spanair flights now have to make alternative arrangements and seek reimbursements. Spanair, owned by a consortium based in the northeastern region of Catalonia, shut down late on Friday because of a lack of funding.

The legal proceedings begun by Spain’s government could lead to Spanair being fined €9m (£7.5m) for two “serious infringements” of aviation security legislation, development minister Ana Pastor said. The alleged infractions relates to obligations linked to continued service and passenger protection.

Chairman Ferran Soriano said the airline had failed to attract investment and consequently the regional government of northeastern Catalonia took the decision to stop providing funds. Spanair, whose hub was Barcelona airport, employed around 2,000 people and used the services of about 1,200 ground staff.

Spanair’s financial woes were exacerbated by a 2008 crash that killed 154 people; 18 survived the disaster, the worst in 25 years. The airline, which also ran a commuter service between Madrid and Barcelona, was in financial trouble even before the crash.

In 2010 it reported an operating loss of €115m (£96m).

The Catalan government cited the “current economic climate” and “European legislation concerning competition” as the major factors influencing its decision.

In Brussels, the European Low Fares Airline Association said those of its members flying overlapping routes with Spanair would offer specially discounted fares to help stranded passengers return home. Offers are subject to seat availability, said the association of budget airlines – which includes Ryanair and EasyJet.

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