FOUR years on from King Felipe opening the new Murcia regional airport at Corvera, the facility is still well short of passenger numbers seen previously at San Javier.
Corvera was meant to be an expensive crown jewel for Murcia regional air travel, located just a few kilometres from Murcia City.
Many observers thought that closing down San Javier- shared with the Spanish Air Force- and moving 40 kms inland would inevitably depress demand.
That has proven to be the case.
At its peak, San Javier welcomed just over two million travellers in 2007- the year that a construction contract for Corvera was awarded.
In its last year of operation in 2018, San Javier had 1.2 million passengers.
In 2022, Corvera- admittedly still recovering from the pandemic- could only muster 838,940 users.
Two factors have been at play, namely the half-hour extra journey time for many coastal residents and holidaymakers.
San Javier was also a useful second option for people on the southern Costa Blanca who could use it rather than Alicante-Elche airport.
That additional length of journey put travellers off, along with a significant reduction of services.
In fact many people from Murcia travel to Alicante to take advantage of far more routes and cheaper fares.
Much-trumpeted services to Barcelona and Madrid are yet to materialise.
Murcia’s Tourism Ministry says that work is going on to ‘boost air connections which are essential for tourism’ and insists that the regional government will work this year on increasing new domestic and international routes.
Minister, Marcus Ortuño, said: “We have a budget for this and we are going to use it.”
He added that this summer will see flights to 22 destinations and over 150 weekly services after two years of restrictions.
“The pandemic was especially hard for tourism and this is reflected in the activity of the country’s airports, which have not been able to recover the figures prior to the health crisis, but show significant progress,” said Ortuño,
Behind the scenes, Corvera had a chequered history.
It was virtually completed in 2012 but stayed shut as the Murcia government removed the operation contract from Aeromur, who claimed €280 million for its investment.
That matter is still in court as national operator Aena was put into control of Corvera- like it is at Alicante-Elche airport.
The sheer costs involved in getting Corvera up and running, coupled with fewer passengers and flights, have made many people ponder whether it was all really worth it.