BARCELONA, Spain, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Spanair ceased operations early Saturday, stranding thousands of passengers, after a rescue deal fell through and a Spanish regional government halted funding.
Spanish flag airline Iberia and No. 2 and No. 3 Spanish carriers Vueling Airlines and Air Europa, along with Irish low-cost airline Ryanair and British discount carrier EasyJet, announced special-fare contingency plans to accommodate stuck Spanair passengers.
Iberia said it was working with Spain's government to add flights on routes where Spanair had high market share.
About 23,000 passengers on 212 flights were stranded this weekend, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported Saturday.
The financially troubled 26-year-old Spanish airline -- Spain's No. 4 carrier -- had flown to 43 destinations in Spain, Europe, Asia and North and West Africa.
Spanair -- which announced its demise on its Web site and apologized "to all those people who have been affected" -- shut down after a rescue deal with Qatar Airways, the Persian Gulf's No. 2 carrier, fell through and the northeast Spanish regional government in Catalonia autonomous community said it would no longer subsidize the financially troubled airline.
Qatar Airways declined to comment on the reason for ending the deal. The Catalonian government had no immediate comment.
The government, which approved a $14 million loan plan to save the airline last year, had invested in the airline since January 2009, when Spanair was acquired from Scandinavian Airlines by a Catalonian consortium composed largely of public tourism institutions and a private-equity group wanting to convert Barcelona El Prat Airport into an international hub with Spanair's help, Flightglobal Pro reported.
"It's ironic that Catalonia, which thinks of itself as a separate nation from Spain, would choose an airline called Spanair to be its flagship carrier," Maria Elena Ferrer, whose Humanamente business consulting firm operates in Spain and the United States, told United Press International Friday night.
Scandinavian Airlines, which still held 10.9 percent ownership of Spanair, said in a statement late Friday it had already written down to zero its shareholding value but had money in reserve to handle guarantees and costs associated with the bankruptcy.
Spanair had more than 2,000 employees. The airline did not discuss their fates early Saturday.