Spain Has An Abandoned Jumbo Jet Problem

Spain Has An Abandoned Jumbo Jet Problem

Not to sound too much like a '90s comic in front of an exposed brick wall, but what's the deal with airport parking? The fees can be so steep that, depending on how long a trip you're making, it makes more sense to abandon your old car to the Lot P gods and buy a new one when you get back. In fact, that's a tried and true method people have been doing in Spanish airports for decades. Except that instead of abandoning their old Toyota, they've been doing it with Boeing 747s. 

If you think parking at the airport is expensive for cars, it's a whole other league for airplanes. Some airports can charge up to $300 an hour for planes to cool their jets on the tarmac. In Valencia Airport in Spain, a Pronair Boeing 747 that has been double-parked since 2009 has racked up over 200 million Euros in fines. Never heard of an airliner called Pronair? That's part of the problem. In Spain, after years of ambitious spending to expand tourism, the economic crisis of 2008 hit its air travel extra hard. Small time budget airliners started dropping like flies, walking away from not just their local franchises but the literal planes as well.

Flo Weiss, Wikimedia Commons
“Just leave the keys in the ignition and hope someone steals it.”

Currently, there are still over 71 large aircraft just filling their overhead compartments with Spanish parking tickets with no one coming to pick them up. Many of them have been blocking runways since the early 2010s. This even though Spanish airports have to wait no more than a year before they can declare these airplanes abandoned and do with them as they see fit. But since these neglected rust buckets can only be put on cinder blocks and scrapped for parts, and since that won't even cover the cost of towing, let alone the millions in parking fines, anxious airports choose to continue hunting down those responsible for the late fees with the determinedness of a librarian-turned-bounty hunter. 

Still desperate to find a less expensive spot for their ghost planes, Spanish admins have turned to a new solution: a ghost airport. Ciudad Real International Airport (also appropriately known as Don Quixote Airport) was a short-lived Spanish budget airport that shut down in 2012 after people figured out that when it said it was conveniently located "south of Madrid," it meant 150 miles south. For almost a decade, the only thing that landed in the abandoned airport were tumbleweeds. But between Spain's many ghost airplanes and Covid making air travel as attractive as catching a ride on a corpse cart, it has reopened to exploit a niche as the world's first airport-airport parking lot, a place to stow away aircraft while its owners figure out what to do with them: send them back into the skies, or put them in the ground.

For more capitalist ghost stories, do follow Cedric on Twitter.

Top Image: wal_172619, Pixabay


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