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Could Madrid be about to get a new airport for low-cost carriers?

The proposed site in Casarrubios could open by 2023 and receive around 300,000 commercial passengers in its first year

Aeropuerto Madrid
Current airfield in Casarrubios del Monte.

A new commercial airport aimed at hosting low-cost airlines could open in Madrid by 2023. The business conglomerate behind the initiative, Air City Madrid Sur, wants to transform an airfield in Casarrubios del Monte, 30 kilometers southeast from the capital, into Madrid’s second airport and is waiting to get the green light from Madrid and Castilla-La Mancha regional authorities.

If approved, work on the airport would begin in 2020 and could be finished by 2023, with 300,000 commercial passengers expected to pass through the site in its first year. Within 10 years, the new airport is predicted to receive 55,000 flights a year and seven million passengers.

The airport is expected to create 5,600 direct jobs

Around 70% of the project will be located in Madrid in the towns of Navalcarnero and El Álamo, with 30% in Casarrubios, Toledo province.

The airfield at Casarrubios opened in 1992 and is currently used for training, recreational and photography flights. Each year, around 300 planes pass through the airfield, taking off on 70,000 journeys.

“The project is born from a reality,” says Javier Ruedas, the managing director of Air City Madrid Sur. “The airfield already exists and has its own airspace.”

Regional authorities confirm that the conglomerate has the economic and technical capacity to complete the project but it is yet to pass an environmental study. Spain’s Public Works Ministry, meanwhile, is conducting an air-compatibility study on the proposal. The promoters are optimistic the plans will be approved: “This is the only available site in the region of Madrid,” says Ruedas, who ruled out sites in Cuatro Vientos and Getafe.

Could Madrid be about to get a new airport for low-cost carriers?

€148-million investment

The new airport is expected to cost €148 million, according to Air City Madrid Sur. The money is set to come from its own funds and other sources of investment, with the conglomerate promising “the state will not put in a euro.” The investment will cover the cost of buying land next to the current airfield, building a new 3.2-kilometer runway, extending the existing runway, and the construction of a control tower, a 15,000-square meter terminal, hangars, maintenance facilities and two connections from the A-5 and R-5 highways.

Madrid is the only big capital city in Europe that does not have a second airport within a 120-kilometer radius

Further down the line, the group expects to add new spaces and services to accommodate hotels, offices and training schools. “Not a meter of land will be used for speculation or for a use that is not related to the airport,” says Rueda.

Air City Madrid Sur says the airport will bring in €1.8 billion in profit within 25 years. The airport is expected to create 5,600 direct jobs and 13,300 indirect jobs in 2033. The industrial complex at the terminal is tipped to employ another 32,000 people.

Complement not substitute to Barajas airport

Madrid is the only big capital city in Europe that does not have a second airport within a 120-kilometer radius. When there are air-space problems, flights have to be diverted to Zaragoza or Valencia. “It’s clear that Madrid needs a second airport that is not 200 kilometers away,” says Ruedas.

The managing director explains that the airport in Casarrubios is intended to compliment Madrid Barajas airport by catering to low-cost airlines: “These companies do not go to Barajas, which has the lowest ratio of low-cost airlines. This infrastructure gives them the potential for tremendous growth and they have told us they are very interested.”

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the number of air passengers will double between now and 2036. Ruedas says that Barajas will receive around 54 million passengers this year, which is “close to its limit” of 70 million. Spanish airport authority AENA says it will increase capacity to 80 million in 2026.

“Hopefully the airport is not another lie”

Locals in Navalcarnero, a municipality that is home to 26,000 people and neighbors the airport, have mixed feelings about the project. “Hopefully the airport is real and not another lie because this town has been tricked many times,” says José Luis Adell, the Socialist Party (PSOE) mayor of Navalcarnero. Plans for another airport and an inter-city Cercanías train line to Madrid promised by former regional premier Esperanza Aguirre of the Popular Party (PP) fell through and the town is skeptical about the new airport’s prospects.

Planes bring a lot of noisy. I like the peace of living in a small town

Local retiree José Luis Navarro

“Right now, we feel abandoned. We need urban bus lines and better connections to the capital. I think if they really do build the airport, the long-distance train that never came could come at last, and the hospitality industry could grow,” says local student Álvaro Sánchez.

Other residents are worried about the potential noise pollution. “Planes are very noisy,” says retiree José Luis Navarro. “I like the peace of living in a small town, I don’t want noise.”

“I would prefer it not to be built because it will mean a lot of noise and upheaval,” says Carmen from the real estate agency La Doctora, although she does admit that “the houses will probably be revalued a little more.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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