AMLO’s Mexico City Airport plan causes confusion and concern among aviation industry officials worldwide.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s vague plans to operate three airports in the country’s capital is coming under increasing scrutiny from airline industry officials who would like some answers.
About four months ago AMLO announced that he would be shelving a $13 billion airport project for Mexico City but he has yet to outline specifics of his alternative.
What is known is that the president’s plan would involve a three-airport system for the city: the continued operation of the current Mexico City International Airport, increased use of Toluca Airport and conversion of the Santa Lucia Airbase for civilian use.
Amid the lack of information about AMLO’s path forward, the International Air and Transport Association (IATA) has just issued a statement of its own on the matter, urging for cooperation between the Mexican government and the airline industry.
“The actual Mexican government canceled the project of a new Mexico City International Airport (NAIM), which was under construction with a design capacity of 120 million. With passenger traffic set to grow by 3.6 percent annually over the next two decades, Mexico faces a capacity crisis in its capital,” said IATA’s statement.
Mexico City International Airport was designed for 32 million passengers annually but handled 48 million in 2018, according to IATA.
“The industry is disappointed in the decision to cancel the NAIM project. But the decision has been made. Safe and efficient air connectivity is critical to the Mexican economy and national development. Implementing a three-airport solution presents major technical and commercial challenges. It is imperative that the government and industry stakeholders work together to find the best way forward,” the IATA statement continued.
During a recent airline conference in the Mexican capital, IATA Director Alexandre de Juniac explained that three airports would be a “very, very, very challenging” proposition, given Mexico City’s altitude, temperature and surrounding mountains.
“Let me be perfectly clear, there will be no compromise on safety,” said de Juniac, at the conference.
Lopez Obrador’s top transportation official had few details to offer in response.
“We need to look for a valid solution that is absolutely safe from an aeronautical standpoint,” the Secretary of Transport and Communications, 82 year-old Javier Jimenez Espriu said, according to Bloomberg.
Aviation is critical to Mexico economic and social development, according to IATA. The industry contributes some $38 billion to the Mexican economy and supports 1.4 million Mexican jobs.
“The decision to cancel the NAIM puts at risk 200,000 future jobs and an economic boost of $20 billion annually by 2035,” said de Juniac.
AMLO’s intention, according to Bloomberg, is to upgrade the existing hub and an airport in nearby Toluca, while also seeking to have the Defense Ministry transform a military base into a third commercial airport.
Aeronautical analysts at Mitre Corp. have argued that the Santa Lucia air base can’t safely operate in tandem with Mexico City’s main airport if capacity grows at both, which would be needed to ease saturation.
What’s more, getting to Toluca from the other two airports could take as long as an hour and a half or more, depending on traffic, complicating passenger connections.
“Airlines urgently need to know what infrastructure will be available and when,” de Juniac said at the recent conference. “And if the decision is politically motivated, the results will be sub-optimal.”
Others at the conference raised questions as well, particularly about AMLO’s plan to have the military build and operate an airport that would be for commercial use. Skeptics questioned whether such a plan makes sense.
De Juniac said such an approach is definitely not common.
Grupo Aeromexico CEO Andres Conesa, speaking on a panel of airline executives, also expressed skepticism about the plans.
“Airlines like ours that operate wide-body aircraft need to operate out of one single airport, we need one single operation center,” he said.
Meanwhile, Enrique Beltranena, CEO at low-cost airline Volaris, said operating out of Toluca would likely generate additional costs.
“That would be a deal breaker for us. I can’t operate something that is just not economically viable,” he said.
TYT Newsroom with information from https://www.travelpulse.com