Huge 'ghost airport' for sale

Last updated 10:51 11/12/2013

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A huge airport in central Spain that cost €1 billion ($1.65 billion) to build but has not received a commercial flight since 2011 has gone up for auction for just €100 million.

With a runway long enough to land an Airbus 380, the world's largest airliner, and a capacity to handle 10 million passengers per year, the airport at Ciudad Real, some 200km south of Madrid, has become a symbol of Spain's real estate bubble.

Spain's first private international airport operated its first flight in December 2008 but passenger traffic never took off and CR Aeropuertos, the operator of the terminal, went into bankruptcy in June 2012 with debts of around 300 million euros.

It went up for auction on Monday for a starting price of €100 million to meet creditor demands and the bidding will close on December 27, a spokesman for a commercial court in Ciudad Real which is overseeing its sale said.

Ciudad Real, a city of around 75,000 residents located halfway between Madrid and Cordoba, attracts few visitors and the airport was designed to serve both the Spanish capital and the Andalusian coast which are both less than an hour away by high-speed rail.

The airport, which reportedly cost around €1 billion to build, had its final commercial flight, from low-cost airline Vueling, at the end of 2011.

It remained open for another six months to receive a handful of private arrivals and in 2012 Oscar-winning Spanish director Pedro Almodovar used it for a week to film part of his latest film I'm So Excited! about a doomed passenger plane.

Since then the airport's 4200-metre-long runway, Europe's longest, has had to be continually painted with yellow crosses so pilots flying over the airport will know they cannot land there, according to Spanish media reports.

Spain, which is gingerly emerging from a double-dip recession sparked by the implosion in 2008 of a decade-long property bubble that fuelled overspending on massive infrastructure projects, has the most international commercial airports of any country in Europe.

Several of the country's 47 public airports do not have any regular commercial flights and 15 move less than 100,000 passengers per year, or less than one flight per day.

Another private airport at Castellon on the Mediterranean coast has fared even worse than the one at Ciudad Real.

It opened in March 2011 but has not handled a single flight.

In the third quarter, Spain emerged from recession with 0.1-per cent growth but still posted an official unemployment rate of 26 per cent.

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- Reuters

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