Mexico is only four months away from the inauguration of a new international airport for Mexico City. This new hub, called Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA, or IATA code NLU), will operate simultaneously with the existing Mexico City International Airport (MEX) and Toluca International Airport (TLC). Nevertheless, many doubts remain as to its eventual success. Let’s see the pros and cons of NLU.
Despite the controversy around NLU, the current Mexican government was able to build a new airport in just three years. The new airport is scheduled to open for commercial service on March 21, 2022. Over the past few months, several members of the airline industry have visited the construction area.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Airport Council International (ACI) have praised NLU from an infrastructure perspective.
Additionally, Volaris and Viva Aerobus believe there is a growing market in the surrounding area. Up to five million people live near the airport, and a few nearby towns could benefit from the new hub. Low-cost carriers could launch point-to-point routes from NLU.
Volaris announced two new routes from NLU. It will connect Tijuana and Cancun daily. Likewise, Viva Aerobus has announced two routes to Guadalajara and Monterrey. Venezuelan carrier Conviasa has also expressed interest in the new airport. Finally, cargo carriers may also be interested in the hub, although no official announcement has been made.
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While IATA praised Mexico’s new airport, it also pointed to a few issues.
NLU lacks an effective way to connect with Mexico City. Getting to the airport from the city center can be time-consuming and expensive. The government is trying to solve this problem by building new roads and a metro system, although this may take some time.
Airspace management of NLU, MEX and TLC also remains a possible issue.
During a press conference, Peter Cerdá, IATA Regional Vice President for the Americas, urged the Mexican government to properly implement the airspace management designed for the simultaneous operation of the three airports.
Mexico’s current Category 2 status with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also an issue. Mexican airlines cannot launch new routes to the United States until Mexico regains Category 1 status. Therefore, NLU may remain a domestic hub for the foreseeable future.
Finally, although there are four confirmed routes from NLU, there is a lack of interest from other carriers in the new airport. Aeromexico said it would not launch flights from NLU in the short term. International carriers (other than Conviasa) will remain in MEX due to extended benefits.
Moreover, four routes are no triumph for a new airport that is expected to handle up to 18 million passengers a year in its first phase. We will have to closely monitor the development of NLU in its first months.
The bottom line
The new Mexico City airport will have a very difficult few months. Nevertheless, it seems that it will remain as the alternative to MEX.
The government is currently pushing a campaign to turn the grounds of the unfinished Texcoco airport into a national park. If he succeeds, it would be very complex in the future to relaunch the construction of the demolished airport.
Many questions remain regarding the NLU. Only time will tell if NLU becomes a successful airport or is a commercial white elephant (like Toluca).
Would you be interested in a flight from Felipe Ángeles International Airport? Which of the advertised routes would you like to try? Let us know in the comments below?
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