Barcelona El-Prat Airport is very easy to navigate once you have used it a few times. Like much of Spain some of the detailed planning somehow got lost (probably over lunch), and so there are a few things about the airport that can be confusing.
What do you need to know about Barcelona El-Prat Airport?
My advice below covers all the issues I have encountered and offers some helpful tips for first-timers.
Firstly I believe it best to think of Barcelona El-Prat Airport as two separate airports; Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 – which are a long way apart. Almost all long-haul flights, flights going east and scheduled airlines fly out of Terminal 1. Vueling is the one exception to this rule, as a low-cost partner of Iberia, they also fly in and out of Terminal 1. Flights travelling north and west and all other low-cost airlines use Terminal 2. Easyjet has its very own separate area at the end of Terminal 2C.
Terminal 1 Arrivals
If you are arriving from overseas, Barcelona Airport is remarkably easy to use. The exit is simple to find. Whatever your transport plans are, you will find it quick to escape from the Airport. Just follow the signs which have a picture of a bus or a taxi on them to find your way out. From Arrivals, you just need to use a ramp or lift to go down one level to the street. If you are going to Barcelona, the Blue Aerobus from directly outside the terminal will take you into the city in around 25 minutes. If you want to come down to Sitges or Port Ginesta, you can take a public bus to Castelldefels or Sitges from across the street from the Terminal. Or, you can take the Green/Blue transfer bus to Terminal 2 and take the train into town.
Getting to Terminal 1
Flying out from Terminal 1 is, however, more complicated. If you travel to Barcelona El-Prat Airport by taxi you will find yourself on the uppermost floor of the airport ready to walk into the check-in area. Entering the building on this floor you first see the airline desks, and at the back of the terminal, you can see security checkpoints leading to the gates. Its all very easy to check-in and depart if you were dropped off on the top floor.
It’s not so simple if you travel any other way to the airport. Signs are somewhat confusing on the different levels and Barcelona El-Prat Airport Terminal 1 is pretty big. If you’re running late for a departing flight, don´t panic! It is easy to become disorientated – just remember that the way to all departures is via the top floor.
If you drive to the airport in your own car, pre-booking for parking is always a good idea. However, if you have a car with a foreign registration, pre-booking does not work. I always take a photo of where I left my vehicle, as airport parking covers a vast area. Finding your way out of the parking to the departure floor on foot is poorly signposted. Look for anything that seems to take you up or says ¨Salidas¨¨ which means Departures. The Ground floor of the airport appears to be offices. It is not possible to enter the terminal from the ground floor, even though this is where any of the public buses will drop you. You always have to find at least one escalator going up, sometimes two – to take you up the two floors to the top.
Terminal 1 Departures
After you have checked-in your bags and passed through airport security, this where things can get very confusing. As you move through security, you will see a small departures information board. This board only shows information about flights that are close to departure, so very useful if you are running late. As generally most of us try to arrive early for a flight, you need to know to go down the escalator after security, to the shopping and cafe area. This will allow you to check your gate on the primary information display boards downstairs.
There are many gates and sometimes its a trip back up the escalator to find yours – if it´s a D gate (as favoured by British Airways among other airlines). If you see anyone who looks lost, just tell them that all information is downstairs! At hectic times of the day someone may be at the top of the escalator doing this job, but not always, or they may not speak English.
Terminal 1 Shopping and Food Hall
This area is excellent, spacious and well designed. When you get to this point, it’s straightforward to find your gate from the instructions on the main info board. Give yourself plenty of time though, as some of the departure gates are a long walk.
This is also a big terminal and knowing where to enter will make it easy to find your check-in. Terminal 2 is split into 3 zones – A, B and C. A is tiny and used for very few arrivals (mainly from Ireland) and no departures. B is the important one for most flights and C belongs entirely to Easy Jet.
For Terminal 2B – at the time of writing this, Ryan Air check-in desks are at the start of the terminal building, all others airlines are around the middle. Terminal 2C for Easy Jet is a mini terminal at the very end of the drop off area. All departures are on the top floor, so when you have dropped your bag use the escalator to go up one level. Escalators are at each end of the terminal. When you have found your way up to the second floor, Terminal 2 is very straightforward and you will see Security which will then lead to your gate.
About the airport
Barcelona–El Prat Airport, is an international airport located 12 km southwest from the centre of Barcelona, close to the towns of El Prat de Llobregat, Viladecans, and Sant Boi.
Barcelona El-Prat Airport is the second busiest airport in Spain behind Madrid-Barajas Airport and one of the most active in Europe. The airport serves destinations all over the world from two large terminals. The Barcelona–Madrid air shuttle service, “Air Bridge”, was the world’s busiest route until 2008, with the highest number of flight operations. This has been somewhat superceded by the ¨Ave¨ speed train which links the two cities.