Wednesday

28th Sep 2022

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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  2. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  3. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  4. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  5. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  6. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap
  7. EU: Nord Stream explosions 'result of a deliberate act'
  8. EU okays €21bn Covid-recovery funding for Italy amid concern

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Netherlands tops EU social safety net for the poor
  2. New EU rules to make companies liable for their AI failures
  3. Can King Charles III reset the broken Brexit relationship?
  4. Meloni's navy-blockade plan to stop Libya migrants 'unlikely'
  5. Underwater explosions were detected near Nord Stream leaks
  6. EU countries stall new pesticide rules, blame Ukraine war
  7. The UN's Uyghur report must push EU into China sanctions
  8. Russian diamonds ban 'would cost 10,000 jobs', Antwerp claims

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us