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The world's most expensive - empty - airport.
By Roderick Eime
1 July 2014





Ciudad Central Airport
 
 
As told to me by David Ellis
 
Here's one airport you won't get a Thai flight to any time soon.
 
It's a massive international airport in Spain that cost the equivalent of around AU$1.7-billion to build in 2008, and although able to handle an impressive ten million passengers a year, hasn't seen a single plane or passenger for over two years.
 
The bizarre case of the Ciudad Central Airport in the city of Ciudad Real, about 200km south of Madrid, began during Spain's property bubble whose origins were in the late 1990s, a time when developers were throwing money at anything they thought people would have a use for, and which imploded dramatically in 2008 – just as the airport opened.
 
iudad Central had been seen as a hub for millions of holidaymakers who would fly in from around Europe and Britain, taking the high- speed AVE train from a station right at the airport to Madrid and archaeologically-fascinating Cordoba (each about just-50 minutes away,) and to Seville and Malaga a further hour or so by the AVE.

But the proposed AVE station – that would have been the first-ever high-speed rail station at a Spanish airport – never eventuated, the bottom fell out of both the property market and the Spanish economy, and rather than flying-in by their millions, tourists and other travellers stayed away by the never-to-arrive plane-load.

Built as Spain's first privately-owned international airport, Ciudad Central appeared almost jinxed from the start, when the developers named their massive $1.7-billion venture Don Quixote International – a name considered by many as a poor choice, with the 17th century Spanish literary figure, whilst chivalrous, also quite delusional.

The name did not last long, and Don Quixote International was soon changed to Ciudad Real Central.

And it had everything, from a runway that at 4.2km was one of the longest in Europe and able to take the world's largest aircraft the A380 Airbus, a terminal that could handle those 10-million passengers a year, over a thousand undercover car-parking places, facilities to shift 47,000 tonnes of air-freight annually, maintenance hangars, a heliport, and a covered 300m long walkway to where the AVE station was to be built.

And around all this, an eight square kilometre industrial zone for industries wanting direct-access to freighter aircraft.

Only two things were missing: passengers and freighter aircraft

A German low cost carrier flew in for several months, and on October 29 2011 the Spanish low-cost service Vueling spelled the final death of Ciudad Real Central when it flew its – and thus the airport's – last service there. After staying open to handle a scattering of private aircraft movements, Ciudad officially closed in April 2012.

The airport's operators filed for bankruptcy with debts in the hundreds of millions, and with total passenger numbers after three years failing to pass the low thousands, compared with the much-hyped 10 million annually.

The airport is now for sale, apparently at no reserve.
 
 

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Keywords: family, light, See, Madrid


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