Passengers at Mexico City International Airport (AICM) are facing long wait times to collect their luggage, get through immigration and board taxis at both terminals.
The newspaper Reforma published a report on the delays Thursday, saying there was chaos at the airport and that passengers have been most annoyed by long waits at barrage carousels.
Juan Luis, who flew into AICM from Miami, told Reforma he waited for almost two hours for his luggage to appear “without any explanation” as to the reason for the delay. “The security guards get annoyed if you complain,” he said.
Martha, who traveled to Mexico City from Atlanta, said she waited for over an hour for her luggage. “We believe it’s an excessive amount of time and … [the airport staff] are rude,” she said.
Passengers who flew in from San Antonio recounted similarly long waits at the baggage carousel.
Reforma reported that travelers are also facing long waits in immigration and taxi queues. Demand for taxis has recently increased as drivers for ride-hailing apps such as Uber are now prohibited from collecting passengers at AICM, although the ban has generally not been enforced.
Authorities and airlines have blamed each other for the delays passengers have faced to collect their luggage, Reforma said. An official with the Federal Civil Aviation Agency said the long wait times were perhaps the product of a lack of airline staff on the ground at the airport.
But airline sources said that AICM operates the baggage carousels and has caused delays by directing luggage from as many as four flights to the same one at the same time. One airline source directed blame at customs. “Almost everything is customs’ fault. They don’t have enough personnel or [X-ray] machines,” the source said.
Airport employees said that inspections of luggage immediately after it has been taken off a plane by navy personnel – who are responsible for security at the airport – and sniffer dogs have also contributed to delays in getting baggage into terminals.
An airport security employee told Reforma that delays at immigration have been caused by slow computers and lengthy questioning of some incoming passengers. “That causes long lines,” the employee said.
The high number of passengers that use AICM is also a factor in the long wait times people experience as they move through different parts of the airport. The federal government declared in March that both terminals had reached saturation point, and the opening of the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) north of the capital has so far done little to alleviate the pressure.
The heavy traffic isn’t limited to passengers in the terminal buildings: runways and the airspace surrounding the airport are also congested, leading to an increase in aborted landings, or go-arounds, this year, including two very close calls – one on May 7 and another four days later.
Asked about the airport chaos at his regular news conference on Thursday, President López Obrador claimed that the problems were exaggerated by Reforma and suggested that the focus on them is aimed at damaging his government.
“The Mexico City airport has been saturated at other times and … there wasn’t the same dissemination [of information] as now,” he said.
The president did, however, acknowledge that some passengers have faced delays. He said that changes carried out at the airport, including putting the navy in charge of security, have caused longer wait times, but defended marines’ presence at the facility, considered the most important airport in Latin America.
“There was contraband, the arrival of drugs [before the navy took charge],” López Obrador said. “… The airlines don’t help [with the delays] and [there are] other issues,” he said.
AMLO also acknowledged that too many planes are using the airport, but getting airlines to use AIFA instead is proving to be a challenge. “There is some resistance from airlines to move to the Felipe Ángeles airport,” he said.
“The Felipe Ángeles airport is a great airport. It’s already a functional airport and it will be the best airport in Mexico soon, with a lot of flights, but we’re in a process of transition. So, that’s what’s happening. And [the issue] is very politicized … [but] we’re already taking steps [to alleviate pressure at AICM] and we’re going to finish putting things in order.”
With reports from Reforma