New Mexico City Airport Opens With 8 Flights
The first flight from Mexico City’s new airport took off on March 21, but whether the new facility can relieve congestion at the capital’s main airport remains to be seen.
Felipe Angeles International Airport, located about 28 miles (45 km) from Mexico City, opened with an Aeromexico flight to Villahermosa. In all, the airport will handle eight commercial departures on its first day: two flights by Aeromexico, three by Volaris, and two by Viva Aerobus, Cirium data show. Venezuela’s Conviasa operated one flight to Caracas.
But the airport has grand ambitions. It’s opening with three runways capable of handling “any aircraft flying now,” including Airbus A380s and Boeing 747s, General Gustavo Vallejo, head of the military engineers in charge of the airport’s construction, told reporters on March 21. Felipe Angeles will open with 28 gates and, including remote stands, can accommodate up to 45 aircraft, Vallejo said. The airport can handle up to 20 million passengers.
The airport is built on a former military base in Santa Lucia, and the military remains in charge of its administration. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has long championed the Santa Lucia facility as an alternative to Mexico City. But before he took office at the end of 2018, work had already progressed on a $13 billion airport project closer to the city. The president made good on a campaign pledge to cancel that project, which he deemed wasteful, despite more than $2 billion in work already completed.
Lopez Obrador, who ran on a populist platform, said then the new Mexico City airport under construction would serve wealthier parts of the catchment area, especially when compared with Santa Lucia, which is not as affluent as much of the capital region. He reiterated that belief on March 21 by saying Felipe Angeles would connect a part of the capital region that has traditionally been underserved.
There is broad consensus that Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport is congested. The two-runway airport handled 36 million passengers last year — and more than 50 million in 2019 — and is Latin America’s busiest. It is slot-constrained and airlines have long battled for access to the airport; Mexicana’s bankruptcy 10 years ago touched off a feeding frenzy for its slots. But there has been no consensus on where a new airport should be. The previous administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto pushed the project that Lopez Obrador cancelled.
Airlines are skeptical about the Santa Lucia location. First, it was a military site, which raised questions about its suitability for commercial operations. Second, what Lopez Obrador sees as a benefit in terms of an underserved catchment may not ring as true for airline executives. Volaris CEO Enrique Beltranena pointed out last year that the immediate area is not as affluent as those of Benito Juarez or Toluca, the latter a reliever airport to Mexico City’s west. Finally, existing infrastructure makes access difficult.
However, the Mexican government aims to alleviate that last concern, Lopez Obrador said on March 21. The highway between Mexico City and Felipe Angeles is being widened to double its current size. A new rapid bus line connects the city center with the airport. And, in 2023, a new train line will connect the airport terminal to the city center in about 40 minutes, the president said. The military is in charge of its construction.
Other than Conviasa, no international airlines have announced plans to fly from Felipe Angeles. Cirium schedules show the domestic airlines that launched flights from Felipe Angeles today have no plans to increase frequencies through June.
- Berlin Brandenburg airport opened a new Terminal 2 on March 24. Ryanair is the only operator from the facility that is designed to handle 6 million passengers annually. The terminal is just that: a new headhouse for departures and arrivals with a physical connection to the airport’s existing airside gates. Terminal 2 was completed in 2020 but its opening was delayed due to the crisis.
- Nigerian authorities opened the new Terminal 2 at Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport on March 22. The facility has six contact gates, and design capacity of 14 million annual passengers. The roughly $100 million project was financed under a 2013 loan from the Export and Import Bank of China.
- The New York Transportation Development Corporation launched a $1.35 billion bond on behalf of JFK International Air Terminal and Delta Air Lines to fund an expansion of Terminal 4 at JFK airport. The $1.3 billion expansion includes adding 10 regional jet gates to Concourse A; an expansion and reconfiguration of 14 gates widebody and regional gates to 12 widebody, narrowbody, and regional gates on Concourse B; an expansion of the ticketing area; and new Delta lounges. One notable aspect is a new Delta One Lounge, which would be the first premium lounge for Delta and likely compete with American Airlines‘ Flagship and United Airlines‘ Polaris premium lounges. A Delta spokesperson declined to comment further on the Delta One Lounge. Work on the Terminal 4 has begun with most aspects set for completion by December 2023. J.P. Morgan is the senior underwriting manager of the transaction that is due to price on April 5.
- Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport launched its own $1.2 billion bond offering to partially fund its $5.9 billion five-year capital plan that runs through 2027. The largest piece of that plan is the $2.3 billion renovation and expansion of Terminals A and C, which will add nine gates for DFW’s largest carrier, American. Citi and Raymond James are lead managers on the bond issue that is scheduled to price on April 5 and 6.
- All good things must come to an end. Alaska Airlines is moving from Virgin America’s old digs in San Francisco’s Terminal 2 to the rebuilt Terminal 1 by the end of 2024. The move puts Alaska closer to its new partner American, as well as other Oneworld alliance members. Alaska currently uses 10 gates at Terminal 2, and a spokeswoman said it anticipates using a similar number in Terminal 1. The carrier also will build out a new lounge in Terminal 1. United, which operates from Terminal 3 and uses common-use gates in Terminal 2, could expand its presence at the facility upon Alaska’s departure. The real question is whether Southwest Airlines, or other carriers, may move into the newly freed-up space in Terminal 2.
- Dubai International will close its north runway from May 9-June 22 for a complete refurbishment, the airport authority said. The airport expects operations to continue normally during the 45-day period, but said some flights may be redirected to Dubai World Central. The airport last closed one of its two runways for reconstruction in 2019.
- The FAA is extending its slot waivers and slot exemptions at through October 29 at New York Kennedy, LaGuardia, Washington Reagan National, Chicago O’Hare, Newark, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The extension is the latest in a series of waivers and exemptions that began early in the Covid pandemic and exempts airlines from use-it-or-lose-it slot rules on international flights.