Famous Airports that are Now Ghost Towns

With the summer holidays around the corner, numerous passengers will surely be experiencing delays, cancellations, diversions and overbookings. But not in these airports. refund.me, the online platform specialized in handling claims in the airline sector and other transportation modes, has selected some of the world’s most infamous ghost airports, deserted hubs which once saw thousands if not millions of passengers passing through them, or which planned to but never managed.

Floyd Bennett Field, USA: An historic airport turned park and a potential solution to congestion in JFK

Floyd Bennett Field was the first municipal airport in New York, and at one point had some of the most modern facilities in the United States, flaunting electrically illuminated, concrete runways and numerous amenities while many other airports still used dirt runways. After the inauguration of Floyd Bennett Field in 1931, New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia pushed for it to replace Newark as the city’s main air terminal.


While a number of air races were held and various records broken there, only American Airlines would move its Newark operations to Floyd Bennett Field. This, combined with the Great Depression, never allowed the airport to get off the ground commercially.

Eventually, in 1972, Floyd Bennett Field became a national park dedicated to “aviation history, sports and the great outdoors.”

But as it is only 5 miles away from John F. Kennedy Airport, some experts have suggested bringing Floyd Bennett Field back to life as a possible solution to the congestion problem in JFK. Indeed, one of three flights operated to or from New York City airports is delayed, and extending its runway could make Floyd Bennett Field capable of accommodating international flights.

This proposal, however, has so far been played down by other experts due to the proximity of the two airports, who fear that traffic to Floyd Bennett Field would considerably disrupt traffic patterns to JFK.

However, a new traffic-control system being installed by the FAA could enable airplanes to fly to Floyd Bennett Field without conflicting with flights to JFK, but the cost of realigning and lengthening its runways, as well as reacquiring the land from the National Park Service, make the idea likely to remain a pipedream.

Burst construction bubble in Spain and empty terminals

Designed and built during Spain’s economic boom, €1 billion airport in Ciudad Real was meant to relieve congestion in Madrid’s Barajas Airport, but opened in the midst of the worst recession in nearly 100 years. Built privately, it has since crippled the local savings banks which provided funding.

The airport of Ciudad Real was built to handle more than 5.5 million passengers per year. Its runway, one of the longest in Europe, was even ambitiously designed to service the Airbus A380. It was going to become the first airport in Spain to be directly linked to the high-speed AVE trains, connecting to Madrid in less than an hour and to the south of Spain in just two hours.

Rather than converting Ciudad Real into a bustling aviation hub, however, the failed project h as instead led to speculation that investors were planning all along to make their profits by signing contracts with their own construction companies, not by managing a successful airport.

Ultimately, flights only operated in and out of Ciudad Real between 2010 and 2011, and in 2012 the €1 billion airport was shut down.

Meanwhile in the small city of Castellon in eastern Spain, the €150 million airport was meant to open up the region to tourism, even intending to be a tourist attraction in itself by offering visitors tours of normally restricted areas such as the runways. While airlines declined to add the Castellon to their routes, the project was dealt an important blow last year when it was denied a license to operate. As it turns out, its main strip was too narrow to meet regulations for larger aircraft. Although inspections of the facilities are currently underway, no license to operate has yet been granted.

To this day, Castellon is to this day still awaiting its first scheduled flight. Like Ciudad Real’s Airport, it is a hard-to-avoid reminder of the ill-advised spending that has led to the collapse of Spain’s banking system. 

Sheffield, UK: Unfavorable geography and no radar

At the time Sheffield City Airport was built, Sheffield was the largest city in Europe without its own airport. And when it opened in 1997, it appeared the skies were clear for its business to take off. Flights were being operated to Belfast, Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Jersey and London.

But as low-cost airlines came to soar in the following years, none came to Sheffield. Its runway was too small to accommodate the larger planes used by low-cost operators. And the hilly landscape in the region had made it too difficult to build a runway any longer than 1,200 metres.

Eventually British Airways and KLM shut down their routes to Sheffield, and other operators refused to fly to the Steel City because the airport had no radar. Ironically, Sheffield City Airport had decided a radar was not necessary because it accommodated very little traffic — an unfortunate vicious circle that would further dig the small airport’s grave.

The opening of Robin Hood Airport some 25 miles away would be the final nail in Sheffield City’s coffin. The last scheduled flight out of Sheffield City took place in 2002 and the airport was officially closed in 2008.

The land and the airport were eventually bought for just £1 due to a clause in the original lease which allowed for this transaction if the airport was not financially viable. The land was to be turned into a business park — until an unidentified mystery bidder submitted a bid to buy the airport and re-open it to traffic late in 2012.

The bid is a serious one, according to officials, and thousands of people have signed a petition to put the redevelopment of the airport on hold. Whether the airport can be rejuvenated and become, however, profitable remains to be seen.  This nugget brought to you by www.refund.me where you can get money back from airlines.