No passengers, no planes: ‘Ghost’ airports of Europe
Across crisis-stricken Europe ‘ghost’ airports have freshly painted tarmac, shiny new doors and all the nuts and bolts in place - but no passengers and no airplanes, giving them an eerie aura.
Soaring costs have delayed the ribbon cutting ceremonies, as Europe’s worst recession in 100 years has killed the projects.
The European Commission dispensed millions of euro in funding to boost the infrastructure at regional airports, but they are waiting for travelers and planes that never came, and have become symbols of reckless spending.
“The difficulty you have with the European Union is that ultimately it has all this money that it wants to divest in patronage through grants and all sorts of different sinecures, throughout the land of the 28 nations, and it wants to try and make an economic impact,” Patrick Young, a financial expert, told RT.
People in Brussels “believe money grows on trees, that is the fundamental problem that is pushing the EU towards breaking point,” Young said.
Poland, which joined the EU in 2004, and has been lauded by the Commission for its economic reforms and financial responsibility, received over $125 million (€100 million) to help build and upgrade 12 airports.
Lublin and Rzeszow are in the forested and hilly east part of the country and haven’t yet opened. Lodz airport was given a facelift, but has failed to attract passengers as it’s located just a 50 minute drive away from Warsaw, the country’s largest airport Lodz opened in 2012.
Poland received €615.7 million from the EU to support these financial black holes between 2007 and 2013, according to figures provided by the European Commission to Reuters.
The airports failed to attract budget airlines to operate flights in between the small cities and bigger hubs.
“The relationship between the local airports and low-cost carriers is suicidal,” Jacek Krawczyk, former chairman of Polish national airline LOT told Reuters.
Poland is not the only country in Europe to spend fortunes on white elephants.
To the south, Spain received the second biggest allowance from the EC to build airports, which are also failing to attract commercial flights. The situation is so dire that one of them, Ciudad Real airport in central Spain, is up for sale at 10 percent the price it cost to build. The airport opened in 2008 and cost €1.1 billion to construct, and closed in 2012, and it now has a price tag of €100 million. No commercial flights have operated since 2011.
On the eastern coast, the €150 million Castellon-Costa airport in Valencia built in 2011 has never seen a single plane land. The runway isn’t long enough to get the license needed to run commercial flights. The airport’s operator anticipates it will serve 50,000 passengers in 2015, and 200,000 by 2017.
Around 80 airports in Europe attract fewer than 1 million passengers a year and about three-quarters of those are in the red, according to industry body Airports Council International.
Germany has spending problems as well when it comes to airports. Berlin’s Brandenburg airport will likely need another €3.2 billion to finally open its doors on top of the €5.4 billion already spent.
Berliners have been waiting for their new facility to open since 2011, but will likely have to wait until 2016 or 2017. It is located south of Berlin next to Schonefeld Airport which is currently operating.