Photo: Keith Chan/Unsplash

By KELIN DILLON

The controversial new Santa Lucía airport will become Mexico’s main international airport, said Víctor Hernández, director of Services to the Navigation of the Mexican Air Space (Seneam), based on its larger capacity to expand than the current Mexico City International Airport (AICM).

“The AICM over time is set to become the country’s second airport. The first I think will be Santa Lucía, because the Santa Lucía airport has an expansion and a reserve area to be able to grow, which the AICM does not have,” Hernández told El Financiero.

The Seneam official noted how, despite a redesign of Mexico City’s airspace to help flow air traffic (which will also save airlines some 600 million pesos in fuel costs), the AICM lacks the necessary physical space to build more runways, which would be necessary to increase daily landings and park more aircrafts.

“The redesign of the airspace does not solve the congestion problem in Mexico City,” said Hernández. “It does not solve it at all, because there is nowhere to grow the AICM. The only way it can increase the number of passengers here is to put bigger planes, but that requires infrastructure and the airlines are not all willing to invest, and less so with the pandemic.”

The Mexico City International Airport currently has the capacity to handle 1,300 operations a day, while the nearby Toluca airport can manage 700 operations. Neither of these two airports handle a larger volume of traffic due to lack of infrastructure. 

“Santa Lucia has more advantages than the AICM, in terms of infrastructure, security, interconnection and punctuality, because it has more capacity. The AICM no longer has a place to grow,” said Hernández.

It should be noted that the now-scrapped Mexico City Texcoco Airport (NAIM) was planned to have three runways at its opening and an additional six runways at its completion, with the capacity for 125 million passengers a year, which would have made it the second-largest international airport in the world. 

In comparison, the Santa Lucía airport only has the planned capacity for 85 million passengers a year at its final stage, some 40 million less than the terminated Texcoco project, and only has plans for two runways to begin with, but with room to expand to three.

Hernández said, though the choice of terminal is ultimately up to airlines to decide, he foresees most international flights continuing to operate out of the AICM, while many domestic flights will be concentrated out of Santa Lucía.

“The airlines will have to decide where to operate. If they asked me, if I had an airline, where I want to operate, I would say Santa Lucía. I would leave tomorrow,” said Hernández.

…April 7, 2021

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