Last week, we discussed the challenges of the Latin American airline industry. Today, we will talk about the challenges of the Latin American airports, which are plenty, fueled by capacity constraints, airspace management, political choices, the introduction of new technologies, sustainability, and more.
The airport panorama in Latin America
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, plenty of airports in the Latin American region had exceeded their capacity levels and were saturated. Mexico City, Cancún, São Paulo, Bogotá, Lima, and Santiago de Chile were all beyond or near their limits and working against the clock to address these issues.
The pandemic brought an unexpected relief –and unwanted– to the airports, which currently found themselves dealing with traffic levels not seen in decades. Nonetheless, as the recovery moves faster in Latin America than in other parts of the world, it is becoming evident that airport administrators and local governments have to move forward with their infrastructure investments.
So far, we have seen the launching of new airport infrastructure in two Latin American capitals in 2022, Santiago de Chile and Mexico City.
Santiago de Chile’s new T2
In February, Nuevo Pudahuel, the administrator of Santiago de Chile’s Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL), opened the doors of the new Terminal 2, which is operating exclusively for international flights.
The new Terminal 2 allows SCL to increase its capacity to receive over 30 million passengers per year. The investment, worth US$900 million, gives Chile’s main hub a much-needed improvement and capacity boost to cope with the future demand.
Nonetheless, Chile’s current main problem is the number of travel restrictions still imposed by the new Chilean government, hampering the airline and tourism industries’ recovery.
Mexico City’s newest airport
A few weeks later, the Mexican government inaugurated the brand new Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU), north of Mexico City.
As IATA’s vice president for the Americas, Peter Cerdá, said, the new airport is an incredible piece of infrastructure that could ease Mexico City International Airport’s levels of saturation. Nonetheless, it still faces ground infrastructure issues and plenty of other challenges before becoming a successful airport for one of Latin America’s largest cities.
The new airport is aimed to function as part of a larger metropolitan system of airports in Mexico City. Between the three hubs (MEX, NLU, and TLC), they will be able to receive up to 120 million yearly passengers once the Felipe Ángeles is fully built. If the system ever gets that number of travelers, the project can be graded as a success.
Other airport projects in the region
Colombia is currently working on modernizing Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport. The project is presently being analyzed by the Colombian government, and it looks to improve the runways, taxiways, security areas, and others.
In the past, Colombia also had discussions about the possibility of building a new second airport in Bogota. Currently, those discussions are paused, and the main objective is to deal with El Dorado’s incoming saturation; Colombia has had the best traffic recovery in the Americas, and it is currently over 2019 levels.
The other big project is the improvement of the infrastructure at Lima’s Jorge Chávez International Airport. The Peruvian government paused the works due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but, according to local media outlets, it is set to continue with the construction of this “city airport,” and the first phase would be ready by 2025. Peru’s investment in the project is about US$1.5 billion and could double Jorge Chávez’s capacity allowing it to handle up to 50 million passengers by 2050.
Daniel Martínez Garbuno is a Mexican journalist. He has specialized in the air industry working mainly for A21, a Mexican media outlet focused entirely on the aviation world. He has also published on other sites like Simple Flying, Roads & Kingdoms, Proceso, El Economista, Buzos de la Noticia, Contenido, and Notimex.