Five years after it opened, Beja’s “ghost airport” is practically deserted.
Flights are so rare that only “around 7,000” passengers are thought to have passed through, claims Público newspaper.
This is because the place has been unable to attract leading airlines – being used almost exclusively for private charter flights.
But while airports authority ANA refuses to admit failure, the situation has been put into perspective by popular travel website roughguides.com
“More than a few eyebrows were raised when a former military airbase opened as Beja International Airport in 2011,” it writes, adding that, at the time, it was hoped the airport would provide an alternative entry point for the south of Portugal.
“But opening just as recession hit – and about as far from the coast as you can get in Portugal, and a good 150km from the Algarve – it is perhaps no great surprise that the airport has hardly been a success,” says Rough Guides, stressing that “very few airlines” use it “even in peak season”.
With the airport ‘celebrating’ its fifth anniversary last Wednesday (April 13), ANA has grudgingly agreed that “the Alentejo still does not have a big enough market” to justify large numbers of tourists and passengers.
But why none of this was taken into consideration before €33 million was splashed out remains unclear.
Airport director José Natário has since told TSF radio that the original project “did not go according to plan”, and that the airport is now being used as a “sort of plane parking area”.
Charter companies such as Hi Fly and EuroAtlantic have been leaving an “average of three to five planes” there every week.
Portuguese company AeroNeo has also announced that it will be ploughing €8 million into “a dismantling and maintenance” service at the airport. This is expected to create 100 jobs and have a “significant impact on the Alentejo”.
But while ANA might try to make this sound like good news, the truth is the region is still stuck with a multi-million euro investment that is failing to justify its existence.