Beja Airport – The Ghost Airport of Alentejo

Beja airport in situated in the middle of the Alentejo region in southern Portugal. The cost of the construction and the building of the airport was 33 million euro’s. The airport is managed and run by ANA, Portugal’s national airport operators.

The Portuguese wonder why there economy as virtually no economic grow at all. Well here is a prime example of complete waste and incompetence, which may help to explain why the Portuguese economy is sinking like a lead weight in water? After spending 33 million which the country can not afford, what do the Portuguese get in return? – one flight per week, on a Sunday? That’s right only one flight per week lands at Beja airport from Heathrow airport.

Its been named the ‘Ghost Airport’ in Portugal, because it is basically a ghost town with no planes, no passengers, no luggage, not nothing? I have actually visited the airport and it as a eerie echo and silence that is more like a church than any airport I have used. What do the staff do running the airport? Luggage handlers, air traffic controllers, check in staff, do they all just play cards or domino’s all week just waiting for that one flight to land on a Sunday? Sunday the airport functions for 2 hours like a real airport and then returns back to its hibernation state?

Financial waste and incompetence as become so common in Portugal that hardly anyone bothers to complain or ask questions any more? The country can ill afford to waste 33 million euro’s on a ghost airport in the middle of Alentejo. Why cannot someone with an ounce of initiative pick up the phone and talk to EasyJet or Ryanair and get flights landing at the airport, the main obstacle I imagine will be the red tape, the bureaucracy, and the politics, and then someone will suggest lets set up a ‘special committee’ to investigate the problem? That should take a couple of years to publish its ‘report’ and findings? Thats if the airport is still financially solvent, and not bankrupt by then?

Beja airport was built to boost and inject economic vibrance and vitality into the Alentejo region for the hotels, cafe’s, leisure industry etc through tourism. Don’t hold your breath, the only living, live things in the airport are the spiders building there cobwebs, taking up residence within the Beja airport terminal. Spotting a real passenger in the airport is like trying to spot a Dodo bird? The Dodo bird is already extinct, and the travelling passenger at Beja airport is on the endangered list?

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There are many more comments to read on ‘Our Airports link – http://www.ourairports.com/airports/LPBJ/comments.html

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17 Comments

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  1. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.

    I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info.
    Thanks for the post. I will definitely comeback.

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  2. Meetings, analysis, and task forces; the Americans call this ‘analysis paralysis’. There is a time for reasonable analysis and then there is a time to get out of the conference room and actually do something real and constructive. Part of the major problem is Beja airport is mired in so much ‘analysis paralysis’ and now everyone is afraid to make any clear decisive decisions, just more conferences, and meetings, that produce very little in terms of concrete results.

    Well paid jobsworths and consultants who have a vested interest in their well paid salaries and high fee’s. Endless powerpoint displays in a conference room are not going to change the fact that Beja airport as been badly managed, with a history of waste and incompetence, and surprise, surprise no one is held accountable.

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    • Well this certainly isn’t America nor the wild west. I’m not going to spend more time trying to explain and translate things for you if you can’t be bothered to do your homework and read up. The audits are available on-line and so are the news. I can post the link if you want. But if you do have extra information on this then I suggest you report it to the authorities.

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  3. Thanks for all the comments and contributions posted on the delay and mismanagement of Beja airport. I think it is important that we create discussion and maybe ANA airport operators will wake up and listen to all the criticism online?

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    • Just to clarify my position on this I don’t think there has been any significant mismanagement or delay in the process. Having said this it would be brilliant to increase the volume of operations asap (logistics+commercial). What I would say is if there are any relevant ideas or contributions to the process that they are voiced to the task force appointed by the PM on 5/June/2012 (led by João Paulo Ramôa and including representatives from FAP, ANA, CCDRA, ERT, AMBAAL and NERBE/AEBAL).

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      • You seem well informed of all the technicalities concerning Beja airport, are you directly, or indirectly employed by ANA? Mmm another task force to debate the lack of any progress concerning Beja airport, more talk? I have sent a link to this blogpost to ANA, hopefully some one at ANA will actually take the time to read the comments and discussion? also I am posting tweets on twitter.

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      • I’m not linked to ANA in any way. I just read the news.There is no lack of progress concerning Beja airport if you read the actual project, audits, and news you’ll understand what’s going on – it’s the digital era, all is on the internet!

        Having read this blog post I frankly don’t see any constructive criticism. Most of what I read is borderline derogatory. And yes, I too expect to see more meetings, analyses and debate, as there should be!

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  4. So ANA airport operators will be privatised later this year, that is the best news I have heard yet. I do know the history of the airport as a military airport for German military aircraft etc. I am sorry but I disagree with many of your comments, even taking into account the eurozone financial crisis and the reduced spending. People tell me the infrastructure is lacking to meet the demands of Beja airport? well that’s not particularly difficult as there is no real passenger traffic or demands on the airport, its a ghost airport with one security guard, guarding an empty airport?

    Beja airport was built at a cost of 33€ million to stimulate and encourage economic growth for the Alentejo region, and as achieved basically nothing in that direction. I hear constant excuses, and more excuses. Unemployment is high in the Alentejo region, the airport as immense potential to stimulate tourism and economic activity and is failing in so many ways. Its little wonder that Easyjet and Ryanair are not interested in Beja airport. To plant the seed, the seed must germinate, not just be left to slowly die due to neglect and incompetence in the hands of ANA.

    All small regional airports have to shout and bang the drum to attract airlines, Beja airport is no exception to that rule, if no effort is made to attract airlines by ANA, then no airlines will operate flights to Beja, its that simple. Will the people of Alentejo have to wait 15, 20 years before it is a properly functioning airport with real passenger traffic, bringing in vital tourism and stimulating the Alentejo economy. Endless analysis and debates will not solve Beja airports stagnant status, only real motivation and action will solve Beja’s airport problems?
    Thank you for your comments.

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    • Indeed ANA and TAP will be privatised later this year – this was agreed last year. ANA tried negotiating with Ryanair, Easyjet and other low-cost since before the airport opened. As far as I’m aware Ryanair showed interest early last year but then pulled out.

      The problem with Beja is that the airport and region will only be attractive enough to receive commercial low-cost flights once the rest of the infrastructures are put in place, and the latter will be difficult to achieve whilst the country is ‘under austerity’. Right now Beja can only serve (commercial flights) as a secondary to Faro or private charters; it is way to far to be a support for Lisbon (Ryanair really want a space in Lisbon). Despite this, the initial programme (pre-austerity) states that the airport will only be operating at ‘an equilibrium’ in 2020, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. No one – who knew what was going on – expected the airport to significantly stimulate the local economy as soon as a year after it was open.

      Having said this, the government (who discredited some of the initial plans set out by the former exec) has recently established a new task force to come up with short term solutions (to take advantage of the current infrastructures) by September this year. We’ll see what comes out of that. I shall remain sceptical whilst borrowing costs are high.

      My initial comment is just adding a few more facts that were missing from your main article. I’m in no way trying to support/approve/disprove, just adding what seems important if you want to tell a complete story. There are plenty more e-documents including SWOT analyses on the internet (a particularly interesting one would be the audit from tcontas.pt) – I suspect they’ll only be available in Portuguese but are certainly worth a read.

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  5. This airport is part of a large scale vision for the future of the region but perhaps more importantly, the overall competitiveness of the country in terms of logistics/cargo handling. In terms of tourism several new developments are planned for the next 10-20 years (~50k beds) – the lack of investment liquidity pushed the time-frame back a little. In terms of cargo the plans are to link it to port of Sines and to Spain via high-speed trains as well as motorways, which if it wasn’t for the financial collapse it would already be near completion. Further to this, horticultural developments in the Alqueva region (tbc 2015, FMCGs) will further explore the facilities of the airport for logistics. There are plenty of other reasons why this airport is important in the medium/long term if you read the regional operational programme for Alentejo, the EDAB reports and read up some more old news. Sadly the lack of liquidity and the recent political changes means it will all be moving at a slower pace than expected. There has been a lot of controversy and public and political criticism to this airport (probably all of it in Portuguese news) and so it is false to say that hardly anyone bothers to complain or ask questions. This airport was also an attractive investment as it was a ‘bargain’ – it is an extension of the Beja military airfield. I could be here all day… the bottom line is that it is still seen as a good long-term investment for the region and the country and given the tone of the article I know it may be hard for some to believe but this isn’t a case of another southern european country wasting money for ‘fun’ (if there really is such a concept!).
    Also the airport isn’t really supposed to be an Algarve airport and so it is hard to pitch it to Ryanair or Easyjet – they just aren’t interested right now. ANA will eventually be privatised this year so fingers crossed! Perhaps the new management will have some more interesting money-making short-term plans.

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  6. sorry my english but i will understand what i really what do say.
    mistake is what this governent is doing do the airport, because we have the really shame in faro, and beja was open the big boss from ANA airport prefer do send the persons to spain instead os beja. really shame is spendig the money and the governent does not use the airport for peaking enterprises from around the city. shame is spending money for not using, because Alentejo is very beautiful and very interesting for visit. incompetence in governent, incompetence of the old and new prime minister. visit Alentejo because is really truth what i´am saing

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    • Thank you for your comment about Beja airport. I agree that Beja airport could be of great potential for the whole of Alentejo and its economy, and jobs for the people living around Beja, but this opportunity is wasted. because ANA airport operators lack any real vision.

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  7. One most be careful when aiming criticisms, especially regarding a country that as been emerging from a dictaturship of many decades just 30 or so years.
    Portugal is not the only country with such examples. When it comes to airports projects, there are more than enough examples in Europe on similar situations, from England, to France, Spain… Some have been “plugged off”, others are suported by public subventions.

    The main issue is ineherent to all: public investment in peripheral regions in those countrys, many times led by political agendas vs. efecttive and efficient financial public management.

    Regarding the sugestion that red tape would be the single obstacle to atract low-cost flights reveals a total lack of knowledge about civil aviation and airport management.
    Yes, for the time being, and while the actual surrounding conditions remain, this airport will be a somehow new-born plugged to life suport systems. Does the problem remain on polititians, political decisions or mismanagement ? The common opinion seems to state so. But, funny, i always thought that, in democracies, the quality of Government officals would be proportional to the society that it should represent…

    By the way, Beja’s airport is not aimed to boost local or regional economy. It was supposed to be a logistic structure within a long-term development plan of a transport network that includes ports, road and railroad structures. By any means shoul a airport with this caracteristics ever be considered a regional project with regional objectives. Despite the potential gains in surrronding local economy.
    As funny as it may seem, the largest economy of the world is the one with higher level of public mismanegement..

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    • 33€ million euro’s is quite a large ‘mistake’ for a much talked about airport that only provides 1 flight per week. Excuses, delays, mismanagement, and gross waste seems to be the norm in southern EU countries. Portugal is 1 step behind Greece in that respect.

      Beja airport’s potential to attract low cost airlines is ignored, and no one is held in account for the vast sum of money spend on the airport for such meagre results. As for the comment Portugal had a dictatorship 30 years ago, thats a lame excuse for present day incompetence in Portugal.

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      • To me, a quite large mistake is spending more than 1bl usd in an airport that as no use at all regarding passengers flights. This example didn´t occur in any south european country and it should also be an example of how delusional regional/national minds can surpass logic.

        Beja’s airport as a residual potential to atract low cost companies. As it has residual potential to atract any kind of industry that might need such a structure for its core operations, for more than obvious reasons.

        The potential impact on local and regional economy of projects/structures such has the A26 highway or a railroad ligne connecting Sines harbour to Évora-Spain is far more greater than an airport. Thus, as secondary structure to support Lisbon’s airport is a pure and simple ilusion.

        Beyond all that, there isn’t any kind of structured discussion nor project in a long term basis to develope regional economy. The airport discussion is an extraordinary example of how “vibrant and colourfull toys” can surpass any investement logic whatsoever. Regional economy is based, mainly, in agriculture (primary sector). To boost regional economy, it would be far more intelligent to focus investment on secondary sector, regarding, agricultural products transformation, for example.

        Tourism is a sensible and very demanding sector and, for the time being, the region does not have the potential to compete in a global basis and, in addition, it can not be developed regarding mass tourism without adressing the implications regarding environmental and natural resources (water) sustainability.

        Present day incompetence in Portugal is a reflexion of the suciety that supports it and that is largely due to the gap of civic education and civic participation in national matters that we see in other european countrys. And that, my friend, without triyng to seek any excuses, is largely due to a dictatorship that started in 1933 and aimed to sustaining social ignorance at all levels, as a form of citizen control, a little bit like we see today in North Corea. So, Portugal it’s paying the price. Growth pains, i would say. Still, i’m extremelly confident about the future and about portuguese citizens capabilities. Time will tell…

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      • Tony Farinho 31/03/2014 — 1:03 am

        I happen to agree with you. It’s well known that the world is going through bad times but there is no excuse for this waste. Portugal and other European countries are good at wasting and creating stupid red tape that is designed to make the path of progress extremely difficult, the sad part is that people appear to accept it… they migrate… they complain… and continue on electing the bad guys. I know I’ve done the same.

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    • Why must “one be careful when aiming criticisms”? The comments are factually accurate – seems to me that the Portuguese in general must learn to take criticism and advice and learn from it rather than continuing along the same crappy path to destitution with blindfolds and earplugs.

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