Ghost Airport: New Hope For $200 Million Airport With 1 Flight

Open Jaw

CDT runway

single flight

Fabra sculpture

It's a tale that makes Canada's ill-fated Mirabel Airport look like a success story.

Spain's Castellon International Airport (IATA Code CDT if it has somehow slipped your mind), opened in 2011 after a $200 million investment. Apart from one charter flight last January, the white elephant airport has lain deserted for the 4 years since.

The project was conceived towards the end of Spain's building bubble that burst in 2008 sending the country crashing into recession. Bizarrely, construction went ahead despite no Spanish domestic or international airlines saying they'd use it… and worse, without any official government approval to operate it.

The man behind Castellon, former local politician Carlos Fabra, is now serving four years in prison on tax fraud charges after a court last December heard of millions in unexplained earnings, with Fabra dubiously explaining that he'd consistently won Spain's Christmas Lottery.

Castellon is in Spain's north-east and with its long Mediterranean coastline and mountainous interior has been growing in popularity in recent years as a tourist destination. But most travellers fly into Valencia just to the south, or Barcelona to the north.

CDT was “officially opened" with much pomp and ceremony on 25MAR, 2011. One of the airports features is an odd, 25-metre high statue of the now incarcerated Carlos Fabra that has been variously described as whimsical, eccentric, weird and gross.

Soon after the facility opened, pilots pointed out a significant problem– the runway was too narrow to allow planes to turn around. In 2012 it was dug-up and widened, adding even further to the cost of the flightless facility. The widening made no difference -- airlines continued to show no interest in landing at CDT, making a mockery of projections that the airport would attract 600,000 passengers a year.

Over the years suggestions for putting the airport to use have included turning it into a car racing track and making the terminal a shopping mall.

But now there's a ray of hope, courtesy of low-cost airline Ryanair. FR has announced that it will start flying thrice-weeky from STN to Castellon and twice a week from BRS in time for the 2015 Easter holiday season, and hopefully carrying 60,000 pax by the end of the year.

Canadian multi-national airport operator SNC-Lavalin has been hired to operate CDT for the next 20 years. The company says it is hopeful the airport will be handling 200,000 passengers a year by 2017. But it also says it needs to see 1.2 million passengers annually before the local provincial government can even look at starting to recoup its costs for the airport – and SNC-Lavalin estimates that won't happen until at least 2029.

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