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Just one month after the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency reaffirmed its year-long ranking of Mexico’s airspace as a Category 2, maintaining Mexican airlines’ prohibition from opening new routes in the United States and continuing limitations in their services operations, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) revealed on Wednesday, July 27, that the second terminal of the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) is structurally unsound and will likely need to to be reconstructed.

The news comes only months after the completion and inauguration of one of López Obrador’s pet project, the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA), which AMLO set out to build after controversially and expensively cancelling the multibillion-dollar Mexico City New International Airport (NAIM) after construction was already well under way – though the AIFA itself ended up costing at least 36 percent more than initially estimated.

“In addition to the poor quality of the soil, the builders didn’t do the proper foundation work,” said AMLO during his daily morning press conference on Wednesday, blaming the failures on his predecessors. “There were failures during construction and it is even required to order an administrative technical audit. We have to figure out how we prevent the terminal from collapsing.”

One possibility could be to build it again, “because it is a serious structural failure,” López Obrador went on to say.

There are different types of collapses,” he said. “And the other alternative is to prop it up.”

Though López Obrador spoke as if he did not know of the terminal’s structural issues, his government has been informed of them since at least 2019. The airport reportedly requested 196 million pesos for studies needed to fix what it described as “structural damage” to both of the facility’s terminals that year.

“The most serious thing that this government has known since it took office is that Terminal 2 needed foundation work,” said Reforma columnist F. Bartolomé. “It is in the white papers that the late Gerardo Ruiz Esparza gave to Javier Jiménez Espriú. And there it is clearly specified that those adjustments were not made then because another airport (the AIFA) was being built!”

Bartolomé said that “the current chaos is largely due to the López Obrador administration: When it decided to cancel the NAIM, it knew it had to reinforce and make the AICM viable, but it did the exact opposite.”

This structural damage only contributes to the AICM’s enduring issues, which have included near-collisions on the tarmac, the firing of pilots who recorded and shared dangerous runway incidents, repeated flight delays and cancellations, a lack of sufficient personnel, allegations of extortion by the facilities’ security and the revelation of unnecessarily costly cleaning contracts handed out by the López Obrador administration – all after AMLO controversially gave jurisdiction of the AICM to the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar).

If Terminal 2, which is mainly used by Mexican airline giant Aeroméxico and hosts the majority of the facility’s international flights, shutters its door for reconstruction, more than 42 percent of the AICM’s users would be affected and the terminal’s flight operations would likely be temporarily moved to AIFA in turn. 

Presently, the AIFA services 15 flights per day, compared to the AICM’s 500 daily flight operations.

However, Mexico’s continued Category 2 airspace designation could put this plan in jeopardy. FAA protocol prohibits any country with this ranking from shifting its international flight plans, and would not allow international flights to the United States to be moved from AICM Terminal 2 to the AIFA, making the path forward to Terminal 2’s reconstruction unclear – or perhaps impossible – in the process.

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