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Ambitious airports that went off-course

The growing demand for air travel is placing existing airports under increasing pressure, and the race to build new facilities to accommodate passengers doesn’t always go according to plan. Here are five examples of ambitious projects that went way off course.

Mexico City’s New International Airport

 Morning queue for takeoff in Mexico City airport.
Morning queue for takeoff in Mexico City airport.

This is the country’s most expensive project in a century. Still under construction, new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is threatening to call off the project as its price tag creeps towards the $13 billion mark.

The concept for one of the world’s biggest airport construction projects, set in the center of a dried-up lake-bed in the heart of Mexico, was borne out of a need to serve increasing numbers of domestic and international passengers flying in and out of the Greater Mexico City area.

The design includes an eight million square foot terminal and three runways, with a capacity for 68 million passengers by 2020. Three additional phases of development were set to follow in order to deliver a total of six runways, an additional terminal and capacity for 125 million passengers by 2065.

The capital’s existing facility, Benito Juarez International, is the busiest in Latin America and stretched to its limits. With just two runways and limited terminal space, on a typical day it serves over 100,000 passengers on their way to and from more than 100 destinations on four continents.

The existing facility is unable to expand any further because it’s located in a densely populated area. Its runways are being used at 97.3% of their maximum capacity, which means only government, military, commercial and specially authorized aircraft are allowed to land. Private jet charter flights now use alternative airports.

Although the concept and design were impressive, the sheer ambition of the project, the challenging terrain and spiraling costs have created the very real possibility that the airport won’t get off the ground by 2020, when it was due to open as one of the biggest airports in the Western Hemisphere.

Floating airports: fiction or fantasy?

View of Vancouver from airplane window with the plane wing in the corner.
View of Vancouver from airplane window with the plane wing in the corner.

Airports need land to begin or expand, but space is a dwindling commodity in our growing metropolises. So what if we could build runways and airport terminals over the surface of the sea? This may sound crazy, but it’s already being done to a limited extent – think about those huge aircraft carriers and floating hotels.

So just how close are we to floating airports? Some engineers believe we could be closer than we think. The concept involves stripping a warship or aircraft carrier of its engines and lower decks and making it long and wide enough for a medium-sized airliner to land on it.

Interestingly, in World War II the British considered constructing runways on icebergs to provide cover for the vital Atlantic convoys, but Project Habakkuk never got off the ground. More recently, in 1995 the Japanese government and a number of private firms formed the Technological Research Association of Mega-Float, aiming to design and test a floating airport concept that could be installed in Tokyo Bay. The planned structure would include a floating 4,000-meter-long runway for large airliners; but despite building and successfully testing a smaller-scale runway, the project was eventually grounded.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport

Photo of the airport terminal of Stuttgart in Germany at night
Photo of the airport terminal of Stuttgart in Germany at night

Construction of the German capital’s third airport has been dogged for years by scandal and controversy. The new airport terminal was due to begin operating in 2010, but it never happened. Hopes are that the airport will be functional in 2020, but many professionals feel it’ll never get off the ground. Its opening has already been postponed six times, while the budget has grown from $3 billion when construction began in 2006 to a current $6.5 billion.

The terminal design calls for a large, light space the size of eight football fields that will process 55 million passengers a year by 2040. But plagued by technical delays, inefficient planning and management changes, the project has become something of a national embarrassment. Thorsten Dirks, a senior executive at Lufthansa, has pointed out that all the equipment the airline had installed at the airport is now hopelessly out-of-date, saying: “My prediction: The thing will be pulled down and rebuilt”.

Montreal-Mirabel Airport

In 1969, the Canadian government announced the construction of a massive new airport to service Montreal. Around 100,000 acres of private land was cleared – more than the size of the entire city of Montreal – at a cost of nearly $140 million. This was eight times the original projection and soon the construction alone spiraled to $276 million.

The airport managed to open in 1975, but was plagued by differences between the national and provincial governments. The result was that a multi-lane highway and rapid transit system that would have linked it with Montreal and Dorval, the city's existing airport, was never built. With Mirabel located 31 miles from Montreal and Dorval, it was too problematic and expensive for passengers to reach and the airport closed in 2004. There’s been talk of turning the site into a water park, but this has also never got off the ground.

Spain's ghost airports

Gibraltar airport runway with the town of La Linea de la Concepcion in the background, Spain
Gibraltar airport runway with the town of La Linea de la Concepcion in the background, Spain

Spain spent billions building and improving 24 airports during the construction boom of the early 2000s. But with a lack of demand and funding drying up, these ghost airports are now scattered throughout the country. Spanish Civil Aviation reports that 15 of these facilities operate just one or fewer commercial or private jet charter flights each day.

It’s staggering to think that one of these facilities – Castellon Airport – was built at a cost of $1.2 billion but has never opened or operated. Why? An existing international airport is in operation just 30 miles away. Worse still, Castellon Airport forks out $580,000 each year to pay for security guards and contracted employees.

The standout advantage of a private jet charter

There are many benefits to flying by private jet – it's a cost-efficient way to transport groups, flights and times are flexible, and you avoid those queues and frustrating delays. But one of the biggest standout advantages of a charter is that you aren’t confined to the larger commercial airliner airports. You can land at any number of private jet airports close to your destination.

To get precise quotes for your bespoke journey, speak to our team who will take you through your options. Once you’ve had your questions answered, a dedicated account manager assigned to you, will take care of everything. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy your flight.



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