French lawmakers in the National Assembly approve a ban on domestic flights, where train takes under 2hrs 30mins
In a recent vote, the French National Assembly voted to abolish domestic flights by any airline on routes than can be covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours, as the government seeks to lower carbon emissions – even while the airline industry has been hit by the pandemic. A citizens’ climate forum established by Macron to help form climate policy had called for the scrapping of flights on routes where the train journey is below 4 hours, or 6 hours. The bill goes to the Senate before a third and final vote in the lower house, where Macron’s ruling party and allies dominate. The measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, though activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises in the draft legislation. However, the French government will contribute to a €4 billion ($4.76 billion) recapitalisation of Air France, more than doubling its stake in the airline, to keep it going during the Covid crisis. The Industry Minister Agnes said there was no contradiction between the bailout and the climate bill (sic) and despite carbon targets, companies had to be supported. McKinsey analysts forecast that air traffic may not return to 2019 levels before 2024.
Greenpeace France “greenwash” an AirFrance plane at Charles de Gaulle airport
Greenpeace France activists got onto the tarmac at Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport to denounce the government’s greenwashing of aviation. They painted the side of an AirFrance plane green – greenwashing it. They say we need to reduce air travel, in order to be compatible the Paris Agreement targets. This comes a few days before the start of parliamentary debates on the “Climate and Resilience” bill. Greenpeace says airport expansion must be stopped – several French airports have such plans at present. They say now only should flights be replaced by rail journeys if the train time is under 2hours 30 minutes, but when the trip is under 6 hours. The train from London to Edinburgh takesa bout 4 hrs 59 minutes. Greenpeace is not against novel technologies, but they say these will not be enough to make a sufficient difference, in the necessary timescale. The proposed technical solutions are a risk, as they delay real action. They explain why biofuels, hydrogen planes, or electric planes are not going to cut aviation emissions any time soon, if ever. Synthetic fuels made from surplus renewably generated electricity offer a small potential, but they will be expensive and only produced in small amounts. So air travel needs to be regulated and reduced.
France drops plans to build 4th terminal at Paris Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) airport on climate concerns
In order to avoid increasing carbon emissions, the French government has decided not to allow plans for a 4th terminal at Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) airport in Paris. It says the project is obsolete. The Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, said: “The government has asked the ADP group [Aéroports de Paris] to abandon its project and to present a new one, more consistent with its objectives of fighting against climate change and environmental protection.” The plan had been for construction to start in 2021. The board of directors of ADP Group should ratify this decision next week. ADP’s chairman and chief executive Augustin de Romanet said ADP had taken note of the government decision and would consider its future plans on how to develop the Charles de Gaulle airport to make it less environmentally damaging. It will consider reducing energy use, more surface access, and perhaps different jet fuels. The French government has a stake of just over 50% in ADP’s share capital. In 2019 Heathrow had 80.8 million passengers, and Roissy had 76.1million. The 4th terminal was intended to cope with 35-40 million passengers. Covid has caused uncertainty about future air travel demand for Paris.
Dutch court ruled that the Dutch government is not required to attach climate conditions to its bailout for KLM
Earlier in the year, Air France-KLM received around €10 billion in various loans, to get it through the Covid pandemic. It then asked for another €6 billion in November. In June there was the suggestion that this government money was only given with various conditions, such as that the number of night flights from Schiphol will be cut, and KLM will have to halve CO2 per passenger-kilometre by 2030. In September, Greenpeace Netherlands took legal action against the Dutch government, for not imposing climate conditions to bailout funding. Now the Dutch court has ruled that the Dutch government is not required to attach climate conditions to its bailout package for KLM. Greenpeace had argued that the bailout conflicted with the duty of care of the Dutch state towards the population. Greenpeace said the verdict is “a missed opportunity for our present and our future. It’s incredibly disappointing to have a government that actually uses state aid to enable KLM and other major polluters to continue wrecking our planet.” Campaigners are not deterred. Changes could be required, such as scrapping all short-haul flights of under a thousand kilometres, like the many each day to Brussels or Paris.
New €7.45 tax per passenger departing from a Dutch airport in 2021
From 1st January 2021, every passenger departing from an airport in the Netherlands will pay an additional tax of €7.45. It was first proposed in May 2019. The Dutch government decided to introduce this tax on commercial aviation in line with global climate goals given that international flights contribute to carbon emissions but, unlike cars, buses or trains, are currently not taxed (it pays no fuel duty and no VAT). The Dutch government expects to collect an estimated €200 million from this tax, in a normal flying year. In May of 2019, former Finance Minister Menno Snel said that the revenues would “help close the price gap between plane tickets and, for example, train tickets.” A previously proposed taxation bill for air freight was cancelled as a study revealed that freighters would divert to surrounding countries, which would have major consequences for both Schiphol and Maastricht Airport. Eight other European countries want the European Commission to come up with a proposal for a European taxation on commercial aviation, and it needs cooperation. A report in 2019 showed that a tax on jet fuel in the EU would cut carbon emissions while having limited impact on employment.
Greenpeace activists occupy a Schiphol runway to protest coronavirus aid to polluting aviation sector
Greenpeace activists occupied a runway at Schiphol airport on 14th May morning, to protest against the billion €s in support going to the aviation sector during the coronavirus crisis. Greenpeace wants strict sustainability conditions to be attached to this aid. The Koninklijke Marechaussee, a policing force that works as part of the Dutch military and is responsible for airport security, said it would detain the 11 Greenpeace activists who were protesting, and remove them from the Aalsmeerbaan runway at Schiphol. The runway is currently being used to park KLM planes. They brought a small bridge with them to get across the ditch that separates the public road from the secured area at Schiphol, and bicycles to get to the runway as quickly as possible. Greenpeace said: “KLM emits more CO2 than the largest coal-fired power station in the Netherlands.” The government should only give KLM funding if it has to cut carbon emissions. This has to be done by more fuel efficiency, fewer flights, and short haul flights replaced by train journeys. Greenpeace also wants conditions attached to aid for other major polluters.
Some of the European airports
Frankfurt Frankfurt Airport
Munich Munich Airport
The Berlin Brandenburg Airport merges all air traffic and opens in June 2012. Following German reunification in 1990, the inefficiency of operating three separate airports became increasingly problematic. Berlin’s airport authority (the Berliner Flughafen GmbH, a subsidiary of the Flughafen Berlin-Schönefeld GmbH) will transfer all of Berlin’s air traffic to a greatly expanded airport at Schönefeld on 3 June 2012, to be renamed Berlin Brandenburg Airport. One airport would be more efficient and would decrease the noise pollution. The existing airport in Schönefeld will be greatly expanded to the south from its current state to allow this. In fact, the new airport will only have the current southern runway (the new designated northern runway) in common with the existing airport.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport will be Germany’s third busiest airport upon opening on 3 June 2012, as Berlin’s airports served over 22.3 million passengers in 2010. Frankfurt Airport, which served 54 million passengers in 2007, is the country’s busiest airport, followed by Munich Airport, which served 34 million passengers in 2007.
See link below.
Protest in Brussels as new flight paths over-fly new areas, giving some respite to those previously heavily over-flown
April 8, 2014
In Brussels there has, for a long time, been a problem because of the division between the French speaking south of the city, and the Flemish speaking north. The airport is to the north east of the city, and traditionally the people living to the north have complained bitterly that they have had a disproprotionate number of flights, while many affluent areas to the south have had no over-flying. From the 6th February the government has brought in new flight paths, which disperse take-offs towards the west, so more fly over the areas to the south of the city. Flights start at 6am and continue to 11pm, though the new routes are meant to not be used for Saturday evening and during Sunday, if there isn’t a strong westerly wind. There has been huge protest in Brussels about this change, with furious citizens incensed that their peace, and their quality of life has been reduced. The changes have brought some relief to the other areas which previously took more than their fair share of the noise. Petitions and protests have been set up, and it is uncertain what will happen next. The situation is complicated by Belgian politics, and the separate interests of Flemish and Walloon sections of society.
Munich conference – airport residents’ campaigns across Europe connect their fight against the aviation lobby
By Kurt Hofmann (ATW) May 2, 2012
Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state government last month implemented a night-flight ban for passenger aircraft at Cologne/Bonn Airport (CGN) between midnight and 5 a.m. local time. Cargo flights are excluded.
The decision affects around 6,000 aircraft movements annually. CGN CEO Michael Garvens said in a statement that the ban is without a legal basis, will damage the aviation market in NRW and put jobs in danger. He added that the airport would appeal the ban to Germany’s transport ministry.
Cargo carriers are concerned they won’t be excluded from the ban indefinitely. Earlier in April, a German court upheld a night-flight ban at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) between 11 p.m. and 5 p.m., dealing a blow to cargo airlines operating at the busy airport.
According to Garvens, the situations—both related to complaints about aircraft noise around the airports—are not comparable. He accused the NRW government of “unlawful interference with an existing operating permit.” Garvens said the proposed noise relief at CGN will be “low” because “passenger [aircraft] are usually smaller [than cargo aircraft], more modern and [use] low-noise [engines].”
CGN is one of the largest commercial airports in Germany, serving more than 10 million passengers per year.
Lufthansa Cargo (LHC) chairman and CEO Karl Ulrich Garnadt told ATW the FRA ban will cost LHC €40 million ($53 million) annually. “This is substantial,” he said. “The amount in turnover we lose is a three-digit million euro number.” The decision could also affect all future investments at FRA, he said.
Der Spiegel article: “Screaming for Quiet – Germans Crank Up Anti-Noise Protests”
Date added: October 9, 2013
An article in the German paper, Der Spiegel, says many Germans are getting fed up with all the noise pollution coming from planes, trains and cars. Despite numerous studies warning of associated health risks, politicians are merely giving lip service to the worries. The victims of rail noise in the Rhine Valley have teamed up with victims of airport noise in the Frankfurt region, and they are now calling for joint demonstrations in their respective state capitals. As well as the almost weekly protests against noise in the Frankfurt airport departure hall, citizens are also staging frequent protests against aircraft noise in Berlin, Cologne and Leipzig, as well as along the flight path into Zurich Airport. There are also protests against road noise. People are no longer willing to accept so much noise. Though it is now not in doubt that noise has health impacts, there remains uncertainty about how much noise is harmful and what the consequences are. But politicians, though starting to acknowledge the issue, continue to only make non-specific promises that there will be improvements. Nothing imminent.
Austrian higher court approves construction of 3rd runway at Vienna Airport, refused on climate & noise grounds in Feb 2017
The Supreme Administrative Court in Austria has approved construction of a 3rd runway at Vienna Airport. The court overturned appeals made by local residents and environmental groups on the basis of noise complaints and environmental impact of the runway. Opponents had successfully argued that noise would be a problem across urban Vienna. Also that it could not be justified on climate change grounds. But the airport appealed – and has now won. It says the noise will not be a problem as there will not be landings over the Vienna city area during normal operations, and it aims at “decreasing noise pollution in the area.” There are the usual claims that it will “reduce delays, fuel consumption, and noise by abolishing allotment patterns and queued aircraft during peak hours”. Back in February 2017 a court said the increased greenhouse gas emissions for Austria would cause harm and climate protection is more important than creating other jobs. Also that the ability of the airport to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by its own measures were not sufficient, and emissions would rise too much. All now forgotten, it seems. Making money trumps climate stability.
Court in Austria blocks 3rd runway at Vienna airport, as climate harm outweighs a few more jobs
A court in Austria has ruled that Vienna Schwechat Airport cannot be expanded with a 3rd runway, on climate change grounds. It said the increased greenhouse gas emissions for Austria would cause harm and climate protection is more important than creating other jobs. The court said the ability of the airport to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by its own measures were not sufficient, and emissions would rise too much. It also said it was important to conserve valuable arable land for future generations to provide food supplies. The airport will appeal. It is using the same false arguments that the DfT and Heathrow are using here – that building a 3rd runway would (allegedly) reduce the amount of carbon emissions and noise because they claim (against common logic) that “fuel consumption and the noise are reduced, because the waiting times of the aircraft would be avoided at peak times.” The airport hopes the runway would bring more tourists into Austria to spend their money, and would be needed by 2025. The airport had 22.8 million passengers in 2015. It is a mystery how such a low number of passengers could require 3 runways, when there is barely enough to fill one, let alone two, runway.
Objections to plans for a 3rd runway at Vienna airport
September 14, 2012 Vienna airport has plans for a third runway, saying it is necessary due to increasing numbers of passengers etc. In July a consultation process started, on the environmental impact assessment. This has now closed, and there have been at least 25 appeals sent in. The second phase of the decision process will be handled by the Department of the Environment. Realistically, a final decision on the runway will not happen before 2014/15. Expansion opponents fear that their objections will not be listened to. A spokesman for the initiative opposing the runway plans said a few weeks ago that the construction of the road is already a foregone conclusion. The airport’s dialogue forum says residents groups are happy that more stringent noise and night flight regulations had been incorporated than provided by law. Click here to view full story…
Important legal challenge by Vienna campaigners on noise compensation
October 28, 2012 Vienna airport has plans for a third runway, saying it is necessary due to increasing numbers of passengers etc. A decision due to be made on 8th November by the European Court of Justice could have major implications for campaigners across Europe. The court will decide whether compensation should be paid to residents who experience noise as a result of new flight paths being introduced. The compensation would be paid for loss of value of their property. The case has been brought by AFLG (Antifluglärmgemeinschaft) which consists of the 38 citizens’ initiatives who are opposed to the proposed 3rd runway at Vienna Airport. More details about the challenge in this newspaper article Click here to view full story…
Paris Charles de Gaulle (see Wikipedia page)
Paris aircraft noise pollution: 17 municipalities join in the legal fight to get noise reduced
Seventeen municipalities in Ile-de-France, near Paris, are joining the appeal, against aircraft noise, before the Council of State filed by a group of associations.Conscious of the health impact of airborne noise on their fellow citizens, they support legal action and want the application of a European regulation on sound protection around airports. The 17 communes have joined the legal action taken in April by the “Association of Defense of Val-d’Oise against the air noise nuisances” (Advocnar) and the collective “Alert nuisances aerial” (ANA). It plans to put in place Environmental Noise Prevention Plans (EFPPs) to limit the impact of air traffic on the population.On April 24, 2017 ADVOCNAR etc applied to the Conseil d’Etat for France to comply with European law concerning the reduction of noise related to air traffic around Orly airports, Roissy Charles-de -Gaulle and Le Bourget. They say the Ile-de-France is a region 10 times more populated than all other metropolitan areas in France, and concentrates half of the national air traffic. The European directive 2002/49 / CE needs the French State to engage in a real step of sustainable development, protecting the health and the sleep of the overflown populations, without calling into question the economic benefits of the presence of the 3 main Parisian airports.
Large Greenpeace protest, Protestival, in Schiphol airport, about its rising CO2 emissions
Over the weekend, 14 and 15th December, there was a huge protest at Schiphol Amsterdam Airport, called Protestival organised by Greenpeace. Hundreds of activists gathered at the airport to demand a climate action plan for Schiphol. Protesters waved banners saying “Tax the plane, take the train” and chanted slogans of “climate justice”, while Greenpeace activists told the crowd: “Schiphol is one the biggest airports in Europe and yet they still want to expand it. That’s not normal!” In its call for people to attend the protest, Greenpeace said on its website: “We’re in the middle of a climate crisis, but the big polluter Schiphol is being allowed to keep growing and polluting even more.” The group had been allowed to protest outside the building only, but they broke that restriction, arguing that citizens’ rights to peaceful protest should not be restricted. Dozens of police from the force that guards Dutch borders began removing the protesters one at a time, dragging or carrying those who resisted, after they refused to leave the airport building. No flights were disrupted by the demonstration. Schiphol has no real plan to cut the CO2 emissions of planes using the airport.
Residents around 6 Dutch airports set up new group opposing aviation expansion
The people living around 6 Dutch airports joined forces to fight against what they consider the undesirable growth of aviation in the Netherlands. On Tuesday they established a national residents’ council on aviation called LBBL. It is calling on the government to prioritise the health of people, the environment and the climate in their plans for aviation in the country. They want train connections with competitive prices, that will make short European flights unnecessary. The LBBL was formed by residents associations from areas around Schiphol, Rotterdam The Hague Airport, Lelystad Airport, Maastricht Aachen Airport, Eindhoven Airport and Groningen Airport Eelde. LBBL already has a first action day planned – on June 23rd, with a national protest against aviation growth in various cities across the Netherlands.
Protest at Lelystad airport (Netherlands) about its expansion, to take holiday flight pressure off Schiphol
Several hundred activists demonstrated at Lelystad Airport in the Netherlands, against the planned expansion of the airport. They had placards, banners and horns to blast noise. Lelystad is scheduled to take over flights from Schiphol as of April 2019, when its runway extension opens. It will be taking some of the pressure off Schiphol, acting as an extra runway for holiday flights to European destinations. Local people are very worried that the 25,000 flights per year will cause a significant noise burden, and many people are horrified about the noise threat which they could not have anticipated years ago when they bought their homes. The protesters want the weather and environmental impacts re-calculated. There are due to be discussions with government agencies on flight path routes. In October 2017 the government admitted there had been errors in calculating the amount of noise, or how much noise each plane makes, but did not expect the errors to affect tje chosen flight path routes or the airport opening in 2019. A petition in September got 68,000 signatures, and while a huge number of people oppose the plans, some welcome the more convenient holiday flights the move to Lelystad would allow.
Rome Ciampino (see Wikipedia page)
Rome Fiumicino (see Wikipedia page)
Fears of local residents as Fiumicino Rome airport plans to add another two runways
Fiumicino airport is the main airport for Rome, and the largest in Italy. It has around 34 million passenger per year now, and 3 runways (4th not often in use). It plans to build two more runways by 2044 (and four new terminals) and grow its number of passengers to 100 million per year. Fiumicino airport is located near the coast, and the land where runways are planned is close to the state nature reserve for the Roman coast. There is also an important neolithic site, with the first evidence of use of the horse in Europe. The local community group, Comitato Fuoripista, oppose the doubling in size of the airport, with the predictable environmental consequences. It is not clear that doubling the airport’s size can be justified economically. Now residents are alarmed that there has been drilling in the area, already prone to subsidence and flooding, and that this is for runway plans. The authorities claim the drilling, done without the proper consents from the local authority, is for normal monitoring. The Benetton family have a 95% stake in Airports of Rome, (ADR) that owns Fiumicino airport.
Ciampino (Rome) campaigners expose Ryanair’s false jobs claims
October 29, 2012 Ryanair claims that it has created 4,000 jobs in Rome since it started using Ciampino Airport a few years ago. These claims have been ridiculed by the local campaigners. In a press release they said: “If tomorrow Ryanair claims the Colosseum in Rome exists only because of them, calm them down! We can prove with absolute certainty that it already existed”. The campaigners show that Ryanair takes money out of the Italian economy. They quote the Corriere della Sera newspaper which found that Italy has lost at least €500 million in taxes in recent years because Ryanair has been allowed to pay its taxes in countries with a lower rate of tax. They also show that some Italian airports have paid Ryanair to use the airport or charged them very low landing fees. Aircraft noise has become a major problem for residents at Ciampino Airport since Ryanair started using the airport a few years ago. Many communities live very close to the airport. Click here to view full story…
Ciudad Real airport, cost €1.1 billion to build, sold for €10,000 to Chinese group, perhaps for cargo airport
An abandoned Spanish airport which cost about €1.1bn to build has been sold for €10,000 (about £7,000) in a bankruptcy auction. The deal includes the runway, hangars, the control tower and other buildings. However, the terminal and parking facilities were not part of the sale. Ciudad Real’s Central airport, located about 235km south of Madrid, became a symbol of the country’s wasteful spending during a construction boom that ended with the financial crisis of 2008, the year the airport opened. It was meant to be an alternative to Madrid’s Barajas airport. The operator of the airport went bankrupt in 2012 after it failed to draw enough traffic. Ryanair used it briefly. A group of British and Asian international investors, Chinese group Tzaneen International, tabled the single bid in Friday’s auction. There was no other interest. The receiver had set a minimum price of €28 million. If no better bid is received by September, the sale will go through. Tzaneen reportedly plans to invest €60 – €100 million in the airport and make it a cargo hub. The offer is for the airport infrastructure only, not adjacent land. It has a long runway and was designed to handle 2.5 million passengers per year. It is thought that Chinese companies want to make it their “main point of entry into Europe”.
Sad story of Ciudad Real Airport – a massive white elephant – that sits abandoned in central Spain
February 18, 2013 Ciudad Real International Airport in central Spain opened in 2009 to much hype and fanfare. The airport, which was meant to handle overflow from Madrid’s Barajas airport, cost some €1.1 billion to build, including a large amount of public funding for infrastructure. The site is next to a town of just 72,000 people on the sparsely populated Castilian plain and lies more than 140 miles from Madrid. It was even named after Don Quixote, the deluded Castilian gentleman of Cervantes’s famous novel, before wiser heads renamed it simply “Central”. Although launched by local private investors, the project has been fulsomely supported by the regional government of Castilla La Mancha and was financed by CCM, the regional savings bank, or caja. There were initially intended to be huge Don Quixote themed attraction nearby, which did not materialise. Only Vueling flew there. The airport closed, as a massively loss-making white elephant, in April 2012 and now sits almost abandoned – except for some car testing.
Spain’s failed airports:
‘In Spain, there are some 15 airports that have less than 100,000 passengers a year, that is less that one flight a day. These are really ghost airports.
Ranks of ‘ghost airports’ grow as Spain’s economic boom dissipates
about Badajoz airport, near the Portuguese border
Also Castellon (see below)
and Barajas (see below)
Beja airport in Portugal – another that has virtually no passengers
Date added: February 17, 2013
Beja Airport is an unused Portuguese airport that opened its doors to civilian flights -having for years been a military base, on April 15, 2011, having scheduled several charter flights to the United Kingdom and to Cape Verde. In spite of being the only Portuguese airport in the Portuguese Alentejo region, with an area comparable to the size of Belgium, it has not attracted low cost carriers. Ryanair is not interested in it. v It has about one flight every two days at most, by one company. As of September 2012, plans to reconvert it into cargo use are under discussion. The only attractions in the area are a dam and an ostrich farm, in addition to some historical attractions in the relatively small local town. Yet another airport expanded at great cost, for passengers who did not materialise – with similarities to Castellon and Ciudad Real airports in Spain.
Lyria TGV – Franco-Swiss trains declare war on air travel
Date added: September 26, 2012
The Lyria TGV line, which runs between Paris and the Swiss cities of Zurich, Geneva, Berne, Lausanne, Basel and Neuchâtel, is competing strongly with air travel for the same journeys. The time between Paris-Basel takes 3 hours 3 minutes; Paris-Geneva 3 hours 5 minutes. and according to the CEO of Lyria “… three hours is the psychological threshold to transfer to air from rail,” With the convenience of no long check in times, no long waits for luggage, and no journey from the airport to the city centre, the rail journey is very attractive. The article implies the train will compete directly with flights from Paris to Basel and Paris to Geneva. Lyria is trying to attract first class passengers by offering a meal ticket, free newspapers and recruiting staff speaking French, German and English.
Castellon Costa Azahar Airport
Another privately operated green field Spanish airport that got off to a bad start – in this case with no air service at – is Castellon, on the Costa Azahar, north of Valencia. It is another airport that took an age to transfer from the architect’s desk to opening day; 12 years in this instance. At least the costs were much less than at Ciudad Real – EUR155 million.
Castellon Airport is in a province – Castellon – that was the only one in Spain without its own airport. It began as a project with assistance from Brussels Airport until that company withdrew from external activities after it was taken over by Macquarie Airports. It is a public-private partnership under the banner of Sociedad Aeropuerto de Castellon. Shareholders include property group Lubasa with a 50% shareholding, Abertis (5%) and Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas SA. In 2007 a 50:50 joint venture was put together by Caja Madrid (one of Spain’s many savings banks) and Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC) to group all of the infrastructure assets owned by the two partners, as Global Via Infraestructuras, which has the 50-year PPP contract for the operation and maintenance of the new Castellon Airport and a 45% shareholding.
The project was beset by political and licensing issues. Building progress was slow even before the recession set in but was completed earlier this year (25-Mar-2011). At that stage the airport was officially ‘opened’ with a 2700m x 45m runway, a 7000 sq m aircraft parking stand and a 9600sqm passenger terminal. But with no services.
The airport and residential developments are situated near Vilanova, a 60-minute drive (60km) north of Valencia, whose own airport at Manises is to the west of the city. There are several good reasons for placing a new airport here. Apart from Valencia there is no alternative until Reus, about 150 km to the north, and none inland as far as Zaragoza (also 150km) and Madrid, 200km away. The coastal region, the 120km long Costa del Azahar, is quickly becoming one of the most sought after locations for property as prices are still comparatively low in relation to the more established regions. On the other hand, and as with Castile La Mancha, this is not a heavily populated part of Spain once outside Valencia’s northern suburbs.
The forecast was that it would attract domestic and international network and low-cost airlines and handle 600,000 passengers in the first year but that forecast has gone awry as Ryanair patched up differences it had with the Valencian authorities and turned that airport into a 35-city base. The parallels with Cuidad Real and Madrid are clear, as are the warnings to all airport operators never to expect too much from a potential relationship with the Irish LCC.
Barajas: overlit, overheated, underused, underwhelming
No more can you judge a city by its airport, than a book by its cover. But perhaps you can judge a Eurocrisis by an airport and if so, Barajas, is surely where you’d start.
And judgment commences even before landing at Madrid’s absurd, bloated monstrosity – designed by Britain’s Richard Rogers.
From the air the still sun-parched high Spanish plateau is crisscrossed by empty, unfinished motorways, slip roads reaching out in hope across the dun terrain, only to end abruptly, nowhere.
Ghost highways take nobody to half-built groups of highrise flats. Around them, mantis-like, tall, silent, motionless cranes do nothing at all. Clumps of empty apartment blocks where the builders clocked off months and sometimes years ago.
Barajas Airport itself, one giant folly to Euro-borrowing on a grand scale against a dream that has never come true. Quite probably never could.
The concrete apron so vast it is impossible to see the end of it at some points.
Arriving means a long bus journey over the concrete plain to a terminal so over-lit and underused it feels unreal. Passengers face a major hike however they come, long concourses merely bring you to several escalators up or down. They in turn will only deposit you at a transit train.
An ode to inefficiency
Then its a journey by train – perhaps a mile or more – and a two-way underground track, to another terminal. More long walks. More escalators. Lifts. More signs. Walk. And walk. Escalators again. Walk.
Then a colossal baggage reclaim area which alone would engulf a Heathrow terminal. I counted 18 carousels. Eighteen. You could fit several football pitches in here.
Waste of space
Overlit, overheated, underused, underwhelmed. And inefficient: the baggage has so far to come you’ve inevitably now got a long wait in this vast, empty place where the wasting of space on a massive scale appears to have been the central stipulation of the design brief.
Sound like I’m moaning? Not a bit. I’m fascinated. In a country facing an almost inevitable bail-out for living beyond any notion of economic reality all this is a gift for any visiting reporter.
And they tell me on Twitter there are any number of equally pointless airports across Spain: Ciudad Real, Malaga, Castillon – all making wonderful architectural statements (whilst actually being punishment centres for human self-loading cargo).
No, you cannot judge a book by its cover but you can see the broken dream of the Euro in the gleaming ghost carousels of Barajas.