New Mexico airport nears takeoff, with few flights | Life


View of the construction site of the new international airport which will be called ‘General Felipe Angeles’ at Santa Lucia Air Base in Zumpango, near Mexico City. — AFP photo

ZUMPANGO, Jan. 30 — Two months before it opens with just a handful of confirmed flights, workers are racing to complete a new international airport for Mexico City — one of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s flagship projects.

With two commercial runways built on a military air base outside the capital, Felipe Angeles International Airport is meant to relieve pressure on the city’s Benito Juarez Airport.

The existing hub, which handled 36 million passengers in 2021, is one of the busiest in Latin America.

Its location in eastern Mexico City is much more convenient for many capital residents than Felipe Angeles, which is located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital’s historic district.

But Benito Juarez Airport is showing its age and handled a record 50.3 million passengers in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Felipe Angeles Airport, named after a general in the Mexican Revolution, has been plagued by controversy from the start.

After taking office in 2018, Lopez Obrador canceled another airport project launched by the previous government and already one-third complete.

He called the US$13bn (RM54.5bn) project a corruption-ridden “bottomless pit” and instead decided to turn the Santa Lucia military air base into a second airport for the capital sprawling mexican.

Lopez Obrador has tasked the military – which is also involved in other pet projects of his government, such as a tourist train in the Yucatan Peninsula – with overseeing the construction of the new airport at a cost of around 3.6 billion dollars.

On a recent visit to Santa Lucia airport, construction workers were seen putting the finishing touches on the interior of the new terminal, while cleaners were sweeping the floors and cleaning the windows.

The sparkling restrooms are decorated with images of traditional mariachi music and wrestling.

In other areas, including the access roads that will connect the terminal to the highway, dozens of workers worked with trucks and machinery to complete the project on time.

A planned rail link to connect the airport to the capital’s commuter rail network is not expected to be completed until the second half of 2023.

” Give a chance “

About 87% of the airport’s construction is complete with two months to go before the March 21 opening, said Capt. Diego Diaz Avila of the military engineering corps.

In its first phase of operation, the new airport will be able to accommodate 19.5 million passengers a year, he told AFP.

But so far only low-cost Mexican airlines Volaris and Viva Aerobus have announced plans to operate a small number of flights at the new airport, with most remaining at Benito Juarez.

Aeromexico, the country’s largest carrier, refused to use the new airport in the initial phase.

Airlines are not ready to shift major operations to the new terminal, said Brian Rodriguez, aviation analyst at financial firm Monex.

“They’re giving it a chance to operate there to see the costs, the demand and how profitable it can be,” he said.

Since Felipe Angeles is located outside the city, airlines using the new airport will seek to attract the several million people living in the surrounding area, Rodriguez added.

AFP contacted the main international airlines operating in Mexico – British Airways, Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa and American Airlines – to ask if they were considering using the new terminal.

Only American Airlines responded, saying there was no change for 13 daily flights between Mexico City and the United States. —AFP


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