Spain’s unused, billion-euro Don Quixote airport is about to be sold to a Chinese investor for just $11,000

The signs don’t look so good for Spain’s economy
The signs don’t look so good for Spain’s economy
Image: AP Photo/Paul White
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In 2006, amid a construction boom in Spain, a tiny town with a population a little over 75,000 people an hour outside Madrid built an airport for €1 billion ($1.1 billion). The town, Ciudad Real, at the time named the new airport after Don Quixote, the windmill-fighting fictional character famous for his delusions of grandeur.

Fittingly, it turns out.

Just a few years later, the construction boom turned into a bust when the bubble burst, making Spain one of the hardest hit countries as the financial crisis swept the world and effectively mothballing the airport.

Now, a Chinese investment company is set to buy the airport former known as Don Quixote—for a paltry €10,000, or $11,000. In fact, it was the only bidder.

The deserted airport is one of the more famous examples of the boom—from apartment complexes to highways—that have given much of Spain the feeling of an empty ghost town.

Ciudad Real airport was built to handle more than 10 million travelers a year. It even has a runway large enough to hold the world’s largest passenger airplane, the Airbus A380—but the airport has sat almost unused since its opening.

In fact, Ciudad Real airport is not even the only deserted brand-new airport in Spain. Both Lleida–Alguaire Airport in Catalonia and Castellón–Costa Azahar Airport near Valencia remain practically unused since construction, The Guardian says; the first commercial flight took off from Castellón airport this year, over four years after opening.

Chinese investment company Tzaneen International was the sole bidder for the airport in a public auction. The price includes the majority of the airport grounds and buildings—but Tzaneen says that it is ready to invest up to €100 million in restoring the airport, which it hopes to turn into a European hub for Chinese cargo planes.

The deal is not done, however. The airport was put originally put on sale for €110 million, but later revised down to €40 million. Because Tzaneen’s lone offer was less than 70% of the asking price, potential competitors have 20 days to come up with something better.

If no-one steps forward, Tzaneen will have its own state-of-the-art airport for the same price as a used 2015 Nissan Versa.