The Polish ‘ghost’ airports built with EU financing

The EU awarded Poland financing of $125m to build three airports that have since struggled to attract either passengers or airlines. 

The airports, in Lodz, Rzeszow and Lublin, received $300m in overall financing. As well as the European money, they were funded by local and central governments and the airports themselves. 

They were forecast to have more than 3 million passengers a year, but only managed 1.1 million. The result is that they have been called "ghost airports".  

Lodz airport is 50 minutes’ drive from Warsaw. Jacek Krawczyk, the former chairman of Polish national airline LOT, told the Reuters news agency: "To have an airport in Lodz from that point of view makes no sense at all." 

He added that the fees charged to airlines for using the facilities were a problem. He said: "The relationship between the local airports and low-cost carriers is suicidal. Nothing will ever be enough. At some point they will say, ‘If you don’t give us more, we’ll go.’ And they’ll go."  

Jerzy Kropiwnicki, who was major of Lodz between 2002 and 2010, said the airport was not supposed to make a profit but was instead meant to invigorate the local economy. He left office two years before the terminal opened. 

Poland received $760m in EU funding for airports between 2007 and 2013, over a third of all European funding for air infrastructure during that period.  

Failing airports are often subsidised by local governments to keep them operational. The cost of running a small airport is an estimated to be $3.75m per year. About 80 airports in Europe attract fewer than 1 million passengers a year, and about three-quarters are in the red, according to Airports Council International.  

Some cost much more to build than the Polish projects. One $200m airport in eastern Spain called Castellon was built with a runway that was too narrow, and has not received any flights at all.  A further $100bn of EU money is expected to be loaned to Poland over the next seven years.

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