quixotic ghost airports

Spain has 52 provinces and 48 airports. Several capital towns got one during the golden 2000’s. 37 are loss-making infrastructures.

My hometown is no exception. Its flying terminal, which looks as big as the long-distance bus station, has five similar airports in less than 125 km distance (one hour drive): Logroño, Bilbao, Vitoria, Santander and Valladolid. Mobility efficiency is left aside when every politician from the National Government wants his own hometown to get an airport. It is like a monument to glorify his political ego amongst their fellow countrymen.

The second main aim of building a local airport is obviously real estate value increase on the surrounding terrain: industrial, logistic and hotel complexes are to blossom out of agricultural land like manna from Heaven. However, Spanish airports may also serve as a wise tool to track back many speculation processes occurring during the last decade. Two-year-old Huesca airport will not have any more commercial flights; just the cafeteria will remain open for pricy daily menus. Lleida’s almost inexistent air traffic makes it possible to have local sheep in charge of the maintenance of the lawn surrounding the landing track.

Villanubla Airport is in Valladolid and dates back from the 1970s. Villanubla literally means Fog Valley, an ideal site for a delirious airport. The local name of the area was proudly kept for the new infrastructure, so that everybody could admire the harsh climatic conditions that they bravely need to deal with every day. But at least, this flying node is still working. In Ciudad Real, after being opened in 2008, the terminal is going to close down in October and become the ultimate ghost airport, only three years after completion. Ciudad Real, in English both Royal City and Real City, is only 2,5 hours drive from Madrid Barajas International Airport. However, it was built with great ambitions: the longest landing track in Europe (4 km). The bigger the construction, the more progress it will bring along with; its name “Don Quixote Airport” matches this foolish disproportion very well.

Another mega-infrastructure near there, the high-speed AVE railway connection between Toledo and Cuenca has been recently withdrawn. The reason: 18,000-euro daily maintenance cost for an average of 9 passengers. How can high-speed trains in such a small country be so developed that American and Chinese engineers even came to learn from Spanish infrastructures?

Spain, obsessed with its inferiority complex, used most of the virtual benefits of the construction boom for pharaonic mobility works; in order to show the world how to build monumental railway, airports and toll roads. Madrid alone has built five new radial private speedways to access the city. Today, the loan has not even been payed off and only 14,000 daily drivers (60,000 expected) are using them.

Every town wanted her own Guggenheim, her own International Convention Centre and her own global University. This has resulted into empty museums, eerie architectural landmarks and mediocre faculties spread all over the country. Financial crisis seems to be the only brake to Spain’s quixotic urban development.

[for further information on infrastructural remnants after the Spanish Crisis, watch ¿Era necesario construirlo?]

[1> Ciudad Real ghost airport via abc]


  1. Nice that you posted this. It is a fascinating subject. I read about this in February, in the Financial Times. I was immediately intrigued. Do you have more pictures?


  2. daniel

    thanks! i am planning a photo-tour to several of them soon…

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