Last Tuesday saw the well-publicised opening of Murcia International Airport by King Felipe V1. His majesty was accompanied by hundreds of invited guests as he was shown around the complex by the president of Aena, Mauruci Lucena.
Many more hundreds of people flocked to the new Corvera site to witness the event and to, themselves, inspect the new facility after more than fifteen years of controversy.
During the early stages there was little enthusiasm for the project but after the development ran into financial difficulties and the Murcia Government was forced to save face by investing over 200 million of its own money into the project, there was no going back. The airport simply had to be built, almost at any cost, but even now, following a lavish opening ceremony, and in view of their track record with similar projects, the jury is still out on legitimacy of the Murcia Government decision.
We all remember the fanfare surrounding such ambitious schemes as the Paramount Theme Park, the Marina de Cope between Mazarrón and Águilas, that was scheduled to be the biggest tourist complex in Europe, and Cartagena’s macro-container port at El Gorguel, all multi million euro projects that have either stalled or been totally abandoned. The administration has less than an impressive record in dealing with such undertakings.
Even the arrival of the AVE high-speed rail network has suffered years of delays, but in the case of the Murcia International Airport we are about to start finding out whether the decision was right.
Tuesday’s opening day saw 16 scheduled flights while on Wednesday there were just 6. Indeed there were far more sightseers wandering around the facility than aircraft passengers, many more dogs being exercised by their owners than aircraft a major concern of the business concessions and the many other people who rely on the footfall and the traffic for their living.
But despite it being such a quiet day, as I waited for staff to serve me, it took over 15 minutes to order a cup of coffee at the only cafe that was open.
There were similar staff absences at booths belonging to Jet2.com, Murcia local police, Easyjet and Swissport. Ryanair had one employee on duty, while only the airport information point was well covered.
María José, a taxi driver from Murcia, had just one pickup all day from the airport to Santiago de la Ribera, making just 50 euros in total. “I hope that things get better” he said. “There is no way whatsoever that I can survive on such meagre pickings.”
“But I was quite lucky, because some of my colleagues spent the entire day without a single customer. More flights are needed but we have no choice other than to have patience.”