Spain thrived on tourism in the 1980s and 1990s and it seemed the 21st century would be no different, then the bubble burst.
Dotted across Spain are airports that have never opened or have so few flights that they lose millions of euros every year in operating costs. This is not new news, the Press and bloggers have been reporting on this for some time but one wonders when the losses will cease.
Ciudad Real, possibly the biggest of the white elephants closed in April 2012. Built to be the second airport to Madrid, even though it is some distance from the city, it saw light traffic before being closed. It sits in a desert-like landscape a monument to Spain's ruinous fiscal and transport policies.
Castellón airport was 'opened' in March 2011 despite any commercial flights scheduled to fly to/from there. Then the talk was of flights starting in April 2012, as of now no flights have arrived or departed. Friday (11/1/2013) saw the creation of a commission to oversee the sale of the airport following news that there was a €200million offer on the table from a Libyan Investment Group. The talk is still to have the airport operational by June of this year. One has to question why.
Girona Airport was built as the second airport to Barcelona's El Prat. On Friday my partner took a scheduled Ryanair flight from there to Pescara, Italy. He described the airport as 'a spaceship that had landed in a desert'. 6 flights were scheduled for the whole day. The Duty Free shops were only partially stocked and devoid of customers. The Guardia and airport security had nothing to do but stand around and chat. According to an independent online guide to the airport there are eleven airlines based there, the main one being Ryanair. It is useful in as much as flights depart from Girona to other smaller airports in Europe (such as Pescara) but getting to Girona is not that easy. From Barcelona airport to Girona airport was 90 minutes and €15 on a bus.
These are just 3 of Spain's airports that sit either unused or barely used and cost the country millions to run. Spain's wealth sits in these airports, the unfinished roads that snake into nowhere and the housing estates and towns built to accomodate workers and ex-pat residences that stand empty.
I have great affection for Spain and its people but the dreams and corruptibility of some of its politicians have reduced this beautiful country to a series of ghostly white elephants and a hugely overdrawn account.
Previous articles on Spain's airports
Daily Express 2011
Sometimes Interesting blog post 2012
Daily Mail 2012
BBC video article