By KELIN DILLON
On Monday, March 21, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) officially inaugurated Mexico’s new Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) as open for operation, with the executive present to cut the ceremony’s ribbon and to spectate the takeoff of several flights from the new facility.
Built on the grounds of a former military base, the AIFA was created as Lopez Obrador’s solution to the cancellation of the multi-billion-dollar Mexico City New International Airport (NAICM), a massive project AMLO scrapped partially through construction during the first weeks of his presidential administration under claims of the airport operating as a symbol of Mexican corruption and costing too much money. Regardless of the alleged cost-saving intentions, the cancellation of the NAICM caused the country an estimated $9 billion in losses.
“Mission accomplished!” said Lopez Obrador at the AIFA’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, further adding commentary on the project’s on-time completion. “This work was done in spite of resistance from vested interests and people who wished us ill.”
Ironically, AMLO, who has touted the proximity of the AIFA to the Mexico City metropolitan area as one of its advantages, arrived 35 minutes late to the facility’s scheduled inauguration.
Despite the AIFA opening for business, a number of issues still remain about the facility’s capabilities of properly serving the surrounding community and incoming tourists. For starters, the AIFA is located a distant 30 miles outside of the Mexico City area, and though a rail project set to connect the metropolis with the airport is in the works, locals currently looking to fly out from the facility will likely be plagued by Mexico City’s perennial traffic jams – as evidenced by Lopez Obrador’s own tardiness to the inauguration.
The quality of the airport’s build has also come under criticism, as AMLO controversially placed the Mexican military in charge of the AIFA’s construction – who apparently mistreated construction workers on the site – and went on to similarly label the project as a matter of national security, which has diminished public transparency about the facility’s cost.
Likewise, the AIFA cost an estimated 36 percent more than AMLO initially estimated at the project’s announcement in 2018, diminishing the much-talked-about savings from the NAICM by even more than previously thought, with additional costs expected later on to lower this number even further.