Friday

23rd Jul 2021

Magazine

Beja airport: A runway to nowhere?

  • Opened in 2011, Beja airport receives two flights per week (Photo: Benjamin Fox)

From the outside, Beja international airport looks clean and snazzy. Inside, the six check-in desks, car rental services and tourist information office are all ready to serve you.

However, there is one problem. For the moment, few people fly there. The runway, an impressive 3.4 kilometres long, stands empty.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Since the airport was opened in 2011, after over a year of delay, just over 5,000 passengers on fewer than 200 flights have passed through the arrival gates.

Airport director Pedro Neves told EUobserver that 90 flights are expected to come in and out of Beja in 2013 - equivalent to just under two per week.

Despite this lack of activity, as part of its operating license the airport has to be prepared to receive any kind of plane at three hours notice. It still employs 17 staff on the site.

The site, which was previously used as a military airbase, was converted at a cost of €33 million, co-financed by the Portuguese government and the EU.

It is not clear whether the economic crisis has been a contributing factor in the airport's failure to secure regular flights from a single carrier.

Budget airline Ryanair had been touted as a possible customer, but chose instead to focus on increasing its Portuguese services to Faro in the Algarve, already a popular tourist destination.

For the sake of comparison, last year Lisbon airport saw more than 15 million passengers come through its doors, while Faro and Oporto saw 5.6 million and 6 million travellers, respectively.

If Neves is disappointed by the airport's apparent failure to attract tourists, he is not showing it.

He says he expects "significant numbers of passengers" to use the airport by 2017-2018.

Meanwhile, with the airport unlikely to get revenue from passenger flights any time soon, it has shifted its attention to transporting cargo and providing long-term parking facilities for aircraft.

Neves says that the €11 million cost of a new aircraft hangar, needed to enable the airport to fly cargo, is to be financed exclusively by aircraft maintenance firm Aeromec.

However, this too has been delayed.

Construction of the hangar was originally expected to start in autumn 2012, only for the project, which is expected to create around 150 jobs, to be postponed because of funding delays. Work is now not expected to begin until 2014.

An agreement has also been signed with Portuguese airline TAP to provide a maintenance and parking service for planes.

Local officials, including Beja's mayor, Jorge Pulido Valente, do not see the airport as a failure, claiming that the cargo facilities will make it easier to transport the region's rich array of agricultural produce.

It also forms part of a transport hub, they say, complementing the region's recently built highways and the port at nearby Sines, 50km away.

But while visiting the deserted airport is a surreal experience, it is difficult to assess whether it has been a victim of Portugal's economic troubles or is simply a 'white elephant' project that should never have been built.

That companies are prepared to invest in developing the site suggests that its long-term business model is viable.

For the moment, however, it offers a runway to nowhere.

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2013 Regions & Cities Magazine.

Click here to read previous editions of our Regions & Cities magazine.

Magazine

If you build it, will they come?

As EU-backed projects go, the hydroelectric Alqueva dam in the Alentejo region of Portugal looks mighty impressive.

Ghost airports drain EU taxpayers' money

Twenty EU-financed airports in Estonia, Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain have misspent large sums of EU taxpayers' money for well over a decade.

Magazine

A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.

Magazine

A tourist's guide to EU-funded Amsterdam

When it comes to projects paid for by EU regional funds, most people think of roads in Romania or bridges in Bulgaria. But richer regions also receive money. EUobserver takes you on a tour of selected projects in Amsterdam.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

Magazine

A deep dive into the EU regional funds

While the regional funds account for a full third of the EU budget, they are somewhat under-reported. EUobserver's latest edition of the Regions & Cities magazine looks at the EU's cohesion policy.

Magazine

The EU Agencies Race

In this edition of EUobserver's Regions & Cities magazine, we take a closer look at some of the EU agencies, exploring how their location matters and the benefits for cities and regions to host them.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us