The “ghost airport” on Spain´s eastern coast has come to symbolize the reckless public spending that left a nation buckling under debt.
Now, thanks to an agreement that will be announced tomorrow, budget airline Ryanair will start operating flights to Castellón-Costa Azahar airfield.
The airport was built at a cost of €150 million ($161 million) and inaugurated in March 2011, but since then its state-of-the-art metal clad terminal has yet to receive a single visitor or see a single aircraft land on its 3,000 meters of virgin runway.
Despite huge amounts being spent on advertising the airport – an estimated €30 million was spent on a package of sponsorship deals – there seemed little to tempt airline operators to the airport and it was suggested that the “white elephant” be converted into a race track or shopping centre.
But the Irish budget airline owned by Michael O'Leary has come to the rescue and is expected to announce that flights will begin between Castellón and destinations in Britain, Germany and Sweden.
A report in Spain's ABC newspaper said flights would begin at the start of the Easter holiday season and would prove to be a huge boost to the region, opening up a relatively undiscovered part of Spain to tourism.
Operators are aiming for 250 flights and some 35,000 passengers through Castellón in its first year.
The airport has been plagued with difficulties. It initially failed to get permits to allow air traffic when it emerged that the airstrip was too narrow and had to be dug up and widened.
The man behind the development, the former president of the PP in Castellón Carlos Fabra, has been jailed for tax fraud. Towering over the terminal is a 25 meter high statue that cost €300,000 and represents Fabra.
The Fabra statue at the airport cost €300,000. Photo: Arjan Veen / Flickr
A spokesman from Ryanair confirmed to The Local that an announcement would be made on Wednesday at 11am at the Castellón provincial government headquarters.
The announcement will be made by “Luís Fernandez-Mellado, the New Route development manager of Ryanair and Jose Espartero, Sales and Marketing Manager for Ryanair in Spain and Portugal as well as Alain Russel, director general of Castellón airport,” the spokesman told The Local.