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Travelers at Mexico City airport. Travelers at Mexico City airport.

Stretched to the limit: no new flights or increased frequency at Mexico City

Though designed to handle just 34 million passengers annually, 50.3 million used the airport last year

No new flights will be authorized for the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) nor will airlines be allowed to increase the frequency of existing routes due to saturation of the facility, says the general director of the Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC).

“If international operators come that want to fly in [already] saturated schedules, they won’t be able to. If they want to increase the frequency of a domestic flight, they won’t be able to,” said Rodrigo Vásquez Colmenares.

“The AICM is finished for all of us,” he added.

A record 50.3 million international and domestic passengers used the Mexico City airport last year, a figure that Vásquez said is evidence that the facility has well and truly reached its limit. The airport was designed to handle just 34 million passengers annually.

However, the AFAC chief explained that the main reason why no new flights will be added is that there is insufficient airspace to accommodate them in an already crowded flight schedule.

To reduce the pressure that the airport currently faces, there will be a “rationalization” of take-off and landing spots, Vásquez said.

“The implication that has will be different for each airline. Each will have to take their own decisions,” he said.

Airlines will have to decide where they want to concentrate their growth efforts, Vásquez said, citing the Toluca and Guadalajara airports, both of which are slated for upgrades, as possibilities.

He explained that airlines are forced to use up to 16% more fuel because they frequently face delays when taking off from the Mexico City airport. Transferring some flights to alternative airports would allow airlines to avoid such additional costs and improve their bottom line, Vásquez said.

The AFAC chief said that the federal government has the authority to reduce the number of slots an airline has at any given airport and as a result can effectively force carriers to shift part of their operations.

“The temptation to impose a decision is big,” Vásquez said before predicting that “it won’t happen.”

For his part, federal Communications and Transportation Secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú has said that the aim is to reduce the number of passengers using the AICM on an annual basis to 45 million even though a third terminal is in the works.

The Santa Lucía airport, currently under construction at a México state air force base north of the capital, will relieve pressure on the AICM but is not expected to be completed until 2022.

The operator of the Guadalajara airport hopes to double capacity there to almost 30 million with the construction of a new runway and terminal building but the new infrastructure is part of a five-year plan and it is unclear exactly when it will be finished.

Raúl Revuelta, CEO of the Pacific Airport Group, told the newspaper El Financiero that the aim is to “absorb” passengers who are currently using the Mexico City airport but didn’t specify when the Guadalajara facility would be in a position to allow that to happen.

Source: El Financiero (sp) 

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