Ciudad Real’s Don Quixote Airport in central Spain was designed to take some of the pressure off Madrid’s Barajas airport just 150 miles or so to the north. Quite famously it never really took off and will no doubt be forever remembered as Spain’s most infamous “ghost” airport built at a staggering cost of over a billion pounds! Its name turned out to be quite apt – nothing but a delusional dream!!
The airport was supposed to have opened in 2004. Delays meant it wasn’t ready until 2008. That four year gap saw Barajas airport expand so the relief airport wasn’t really needed and the failure of plans for a high speed rail link to Madrid was the final nail in the coffin. Having said that, it did finally go operational in late 2008 and the now defunct Air Berlin had flights to Mallorca for a while. Vueling also used its facilities but a little over three years after the first flight came the last one and on 21 April 2012 the airport closed its doors.
In September 2019 the airport reopened as a maintenance base. It was further used during the Covid-19 pandemic when flights from China carrying PPE used it as a distribution hub. Some airlines also stored their aircraft there when demand was at an all time low because of the global situation. By mid 2021 its facilities were once again redundant and it closed once more. Not every aircraft left though, and you can peer through the fence to see them.
The terminal building lays empty. Parking up nearby is easy but staring through the windows at an empty terminal is quite a melancholy experience for a seasoned traveller. It’s quite a haunting sight really.
Whilst you can’t get onto the runway (more about that and Top Gear soon!) you can drive close to the air traffic control tower. It looks like this received massive investment which is a bit of a surprise considering everything else that has happened to the airport. Having said that, without a modern control tower, nothing could ever operate on the runway should they decide it’s worth it again.
Ok, so we couldn’t gain access to the runway, but in 2013 BBC’s Top Gear did. You can see the entertaining 8 minute clip below! They make it look like they snuck into the airport to do this, but what is TV without a bit of artistic licence?!
It’s hard to imagine Ciudad Real airport ever being operational again. There is simply no real need for it (pun intended) and although it may find a role in supply, maintenance or storage, that’s probably as far as it will go. Not bad for a billion pound investment eh?! Having said that, 9 November 2023 saw the arrival of an Airbus A350 to use Sabena Technics maintenance facilities so perhaps there is hope after all.
Have you been there? Please let us know. Aviation enthusiasts may also be interested in Teruel’s passenger-free airport, although its story is very different.