Almost 16 years after the BOE declared it "of general interest of the State", the Murcia Region International Airport is a reality. Aena will manage it for the next 25 years and will pay a fee per passenger to the autonomous community. The neighboring airport of San Javier will close on Monday for passengers, but the new facility will have to compete with that of Alicante, 100 kilometers away.
The history of the new airport is bumpy. The construction works began in July 2008 and were halted in 2010. The regional government then guaranteed a loan of 182.6 million to the former concessionaire, Aeromur (led by Sacyr), to complete them, with an estimated total cost of 256 millions. The infrastructure was completed in January 2012, but it did not open. In December 2013, the Government of Murcia was forced to assume the guaranteed loan. This, according to the calculations of the opposition, costs 20,000 euros a day to the public coffers.
At first Aena showed no interest in the project, but now has accepted to be its manager for 25 years after staying alone in the contest. It is the first time that the state operator takes over in Spain an airport that is not owned and in which you must invest about 100 million in improvements during the concession. However, Aena manages another 15 airports in the world under a similar regime, so "knows well" that model, as explained to the phone its general director of Regulated Business, Javier Marín.
According to forecasts by Aena and the regional government, the opening of the new airport will generate 500 direct jobs in its first year and 20,000 throughout the entire concession. It will also contribute some 500 million euros to regional GDP, in addition to an increase in tourists estimated at 800,000 over the next four years.
The public airport management company promises "competitive" rates and optimal safety and quality conditions for airlines. However, he emphasizes that companies "do not opt for an airport, but for a destination", which has to be attractive for tourists and be well promoted by the Administration.
The airport located in Corvera, a hamlet of the regional capital, is just about 100 kilometers away from one of the star aerodromes of Aena, Alicante-Elche. This is the fifth of the country by passengers: about 13.7 million in 2017, the last year for which there are complete statistics. That year, it grew by 11% compared to 2016.
For Marín, "there is sufficient air traffic" for both facilities in the Mediterranean area, so Aena does not contemplate them from the point of view of a competition, but of complementarity. The public company trusts in the possibilities of "growth and profitability" of the new airport. And, despite the significant investments made to expand and improve San Javier (about 70 million between 2001 and 2015), the offer launched by the company to qualify for the concession requires an increase of 15% in the minimum fee required the Government of Murcia by passenger and year. Thus, it will pay 0.84 euros per person when it exceeds one million pajeros, which is expected this same 2019, matching the figures of San Javier, which closed 2017 with 1.2 million passengers.
Marín estimates that at the end of the concession four million people will pass through Corvera a year, the double that San Javier reached in its best years. All flights of this will be transferred to the new airport: low-cost of Ryanair, Easyjet, Tui and Jet2 to Belgium, Ireland, United Kingdom and Holland. For the summer, two airlines have announced their intention to operate in this new destination: the Spanish Volotea, in a connection with Asturias, and the Norwegian Norwegian, which will link with their country of origin.