March 11, 2015 / 12:46 PM / 5 years ago

Ryanair starts flights between UK and Spanish 'ghost' airport

The main building of the Costa Azahar airport is seen, one year after its official inauguration, near Castellon April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Heino Kalis

MADRID (Reuters) - Irish budget airline Ryanair (RYA.I) said on Wednesday it would start flights in September between Castellon airport in Spain and Britain in the first regular commercial flights to operate from the “ghost” airport since it opened in 2011.

Castellon airport, on Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast some 70 km north of Valencia, was built at a cost of 150 million euros (105 million pounds) during the country’s building bonanza which ended in a 2008 crash and a bailout of its banking system.

The airport was the pet project of local People’s Party (PP) politician, Carlos Fabra, now serving time in jail for tax fraud, and became a symbol of how Spain’s regional governments rashly spent billions on grand projects in the boom years.

Ryanair will start selling the flights on its website on Friday, it said in a statement, with capacity to bring 60,000 passengers per year to Castellon on five flights per week from London Stanstead and Bristol.

Castellon is the 24th airport in Spain to carry Ryanair flights. Ryanair handled nearly 32 million passengers in Spain last year, more than any other airline, official data shows.

The Irish company, with one of the lowest cost structures amongst European airlines, has the ability to drive growth to smaller airports as it did with the Bergamo airport outside Milan in Italy, said analyst Mark Simpson of brokers Goodbody.

“There are a lot of airports in Europe who want to talk to Ryanair because they see them as an anchor tenant who can help stimulate the market,’ he said.

The Castellon authorities hope the flights will boost tourism to the coastal area north of Valencia. Tourism accounts for over 10 percent of Spain’s economic output.

Reporting By Sonya Dowsett, editing by David Evans

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