Cleared for take-off? - When will Corvera airport in Murcia be open for passenger flights?
By Matt MayThe economic downturn in Spain over the last few years has caused many people to question the wisdom of constructing a brand-new state of the art airport in an area of economic austerity.
The newly built state of the art International airport at Corvera in the Murcia region of south eastern Spain was intended to be a replacement for the existing airport at San Javier on the Costa Calida. Corvera Airport was originally heralded as the gateway to another of the regions "manana" projects, the Paramount Theme Park, and was expected to attract millions of European tourists to the region. However, the financial downturn in Spain has left Corvera Airport, the Paramount Theme Park and a host of other development projects on hold.
The process for closing the airport at San Javier and transferring passenger flights to Corvera has not been a simple one. There are many opponents to the scheme including foreign residents who live close to San Javier and local airport workers. An addition compensation would have to be paid to AENA who currently operate the profitable San Javier airport.
When the tourist money came rolling into Spain before the recession hit back in 2008, large numbers of construction projects both private and public were financed by the banks, eager to cash in on foreign investment. Much of the investment in Spain was financed privately as speculators saw an endless stream of euro-tourists and property investors flooding into the country. Then in 2008 the recession hit Spain, leaving the Spanish banks saddled with huge debts and toxic assets as newly built tourist houses and developments lay half-finished or empty, loans went unpaid, and investment and construction companies went to the wall.
The city of Murcia in south eastern Spain lies equidistant between Alicante Airport to the north and Murcia (San Javier) airport to the south. Both airports can be reached from the city of Murcia in under an hour. So why was a brand new "state of the art" airport constructed just outside Murcia in near the small town of Corvera?
There were 2 major factors influencing the decision to build Corvera airport. Firstly, San Javier airport is a small public airport which moonlights as a military airport. Facilities are often overstretched during the busy summer months when passenger numbers are at their peak (this problem was subsequently resolved following some major refurbishment at San Javier Airport).
The second factor was the planning of a new theme park licenced by Paramount which was due to start construction in 2013. It was envisaged that Murcia San Javier airport would not be able to handle the huge number of additional tourists which the theme park would attract, so in part the new airport was supposed to service the new influx of visitors to the region.
Financing of Corvera Airport
Corvera Airport unlike Murcia was intended to be a privately-operated airport, and the company building the airport (Aeromur) took out a huge loan of around €200 million to cover the costs of the airports construction.
Loan repayments were offset against forecast revenue which Aeromur would receive once the airport became operational. However, with the Spanish economy nosdiving, Aeromur ran into financial problems which resulted in a delayed opening of the airport. This left Aeromur with large debts, and no revenue.
The town of Corvera
Visitors to the town of Corvera just to the south of Murcia are more likely to hear the sound of tumbleweed than aircraft overhead if they were to visit this sleepy Murcian town.
Most people visiting Corvera would be surprised to discover that there was an international airport due to open a few kilometres outside the town. Construction at the airport is nearly complete, but the entrance to the airport is fenced off to visitors, and there is not much sign of activity inside.
Many people in Murcia question the viability and logic of building an airport within an hour's drive of Alicante Airport. Additionally, Murcia Airport to the south is a better location than Corvera for tourists visiting Torrevieja and other popular Costa Calida seaside resorts to the south such as Mazarron and the La Manga Resort.
As of today, Corvera airport stands empty with the main entrance to the airport fenced off, and little sign of activity within the airport compound.
The Paramount theme park project has also stalled, although Murcian authorities are hoping that construction will soon be underway.
Spain has other unfinished airports including one at Castillon near Valencia which has been mothballed due to financial problems in the Valencian region. Another airport at Ciudad Real to the south of Madrid featured on a 2013 episode of Top Gear. Ciudad Real airport closed after 3 years in service, and Jeremy Clarkson and friends used the abandoned runway to test the acceleration of several high-performance cars.
Latest Corvera Airport News updated April 2017
AENA have officially confirmed that they will bid to manage Corvera Airport, but they will not commit to closing their operations at nearby Murcia Airport as part of the tender. This is a significant step towards the opening of the airport as AENA are the main airport operator in Spain and would satisfy the necessary criteria required to run a major passenger airport.