Acapulco airport to get a new terminal building

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Acapulco airport to get a new terminal building
Jul 072016

Acapulco international airport (ACA), in Guerrero state, currently handles about 800,000 passenger movements each year. The airport is operated by Grupo Aeroportuario del Centro-Norte (GACN), which also manages airports in another 12 cities. With suitable fanfare in 2014, GACN announced plans to replace the terminal building.

Acapulco, Mexico's first major resort. Photograph by Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

Acapulco, Mexico’s first major resort. Photograph by Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

Last month, GACN reiterated it is investing $30.5 million to build a new terminal building for Acapulco capable of handling 1.3 million passengers a year. The group claims that the new terminal, which will be more than 18,000 square meters in area, will have a state-of-the-art design that will reduce the risks associated with natural hazards and provide much greater space for passengers, airlines and all other supporting services. In addition, it will adopt a range of electricity-saving measures, lowering the airport’s regular operating costs.

Now scheduled to be completed by mid-2018, the Acapulco terminal is the most significant single investment that GACN plans to make in the next five years, and comes at a time when city authorities are busy revitalizing the famous resort. An improved public transit system known as Acabús was officially inaugurated in the city in June 2016.

The new terminal will, however, no longer be ready in time for 2017, when Acapulco will once again host Mexico’s massive annual tourism trade fair, the Tianguis Turístico.

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Mar 212016

Cancún International Airport (CUN) has opened a new terminal, Terminal 3. The airport is the nation’s busiest for international traffic and second only to Mexico City for national traffic. The airport served a total of more than 19 million passengers in 2015, 11% more than the previous year.

The new 60-million-dollar, state-of-the-art Terminal 3 is exclusively for international passengers, and increases operating capacity by 4 million passenger movements a year. An additional terminal, Terminal 4, is scheduled to open in 2017.

New terminal at Cancun airport

New terminal at Cancun airport

According to federal officials, airport investments in the first three years of the current administration have exceeded 1.8 billion dollars. This has triggered the addition of 260 national and 186 international air routes. Passenger movements in the past three years have risen 33% (to 73 million), while air freight has grown 17%.

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A new airport for Mexico City

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on A new airport for Mexico City
Sep 032014

The Mexico City Benito Juárez International Airport handled 31.5 million passengers in 2013, but is operating at near capacity. To ease its congestion, the federal Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) has announced plans to expand the airport eastwards, by annexing 5500 hectares of adjacent federal land bordering Lake Texcoco. The expansion will take several years to complete.

A long-term 9.2-billion-dollar master plan for the airport, with two main phases of construction, was developed by engineering consultancy Arup.

Earlier this week during his second state-of-the-nation address, President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that the winning proposal for designing the new terminal building that forms an integral part of the first phase was submitted by UK-based architect Sir Norman Foster and his Mexican associate Fernando Romero, Carlos Slim’s son-in-law, in association with Netherlands Airports Consultants.

Peña Nieto described the new airport as “the biggest infrastructure project in recent years… and one of the biggest in the world.” He emphasized that his administration was not adopting the easiest short-term path, but “choosing the responsible path”, adding that a project of this scale would inevitably extend well beyond his time in office.

He expected that the new airport would boost tourism, allow more airlines to serve Mexico City, and also help to regenerate an area that has previously suffered severe environmental degradation.

The winning design for the iconic new terminal takes the shape of an “X”, incorporates national symbols in its details, and offers ample space for airport operations, passenger services and exhibitions. The architect is confident that the new airport will be the most sustainable airport in the world, and exceed LEED platinum standards, the highest level of LEED certification.

The first stage, due to be concluded by 2020, involves construction of a new terminal building, control tower and all the infrastructure for operating two runways simultaneously, handling up to 50 million passenger movements a year. Initial work on drainage and foundations will begin later this year. The first phase will generate an estimated 50,000 direct jobs and 160,000 jobs in total.

By 2050, a second phase would have added four more runways and more than doubled the airport’s capacity to 120 million passenger movements.

Record passenger levels in Mexican airports

During the first five months of 2014, Mexico’s airports registered 26,797,688 passenger movements (about 45% international, 55% national), a new record, and 10.8% more that for the same period in 2013. Aeroméxico, the nation’s flagship carrier, accounted for 35.3% of all passenger movements in Mexico, followed by Interjet (23.4%), Volaris (23.3%) and VivaAerobus (12.5%). Aeroméxico recently added several new routes, including links from the northern industrial city of Monterrey to Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí, Cancún, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos.

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Plans to improve the Mexico City-Toluca transport corridor

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Plans to improve the Mexico City-Toluca transport corridor
Jan 202014

The Mexico City Metropolitan Area (dark grey on the map), which occupies the Valley of Mexico, extends well beyond the northern boundary of the Federal District and includes many municipalities in the State of Mexico. The two administrations (the Federal District and the State of Mexico) have to work closely together in order to coordinate actions in the Metropolitan Area, which had a population in 2010 of 20.1 million.

Map of Mexico City urban system

Map of Mexico City urban system. Click to enlarge. (Geo-Mexico Fig. 23.1; all rights reserved)

Toluca, the capital of the State of México, is Mexico’s 4th largest urban area, and a fast-growing industrial city in its own right, with a 2010 population of 1.8 million.

Toluca’s airport (the “Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport”) is mainly used by low-cost carriers like Interjet, Volaris and Aeroméxico Connect as an alternative to using the Mexico City International Airport, which is more expensive and operating at close to capacity. Passenger traffic through Toluca airport has grown rapidly, from 145,000 passengers in 2002 to a peak of almost 4 million in 2008, before falling back to about 1 million passengers in 2012.

Not surprisingly, the Mexico City-Toluca highway is one of Mexico’s busiest major routes, linking the Federal District via Toluca (see map) to western Mexico.

In recent months, several related plans have been announced that are designed to improve the two major transportation issues in this area:

  1. The near saturation of Mexico City International Airport
  2. The very busy (and often slow) highway between Mexico City and Toluca

To ease the situation of Mexico City International Airport, the federal Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) plans to expand the airport eastwards, onto 5,500 hectares of federal land. The expansion is likely to take several years to complete, and will increase flight capacity even though it will not include an additional terminal.

Meanwhile, State of Mexico authorities have authorized a second runway for the Toluca International Airport, which will significantly expand that airport’s capacity. The SCT has proposed that Toluca Airport become an alternate airport for Mexico City, with the two airports linked by high-speed trains.

The SCT has already announced that a new rail link between Toluca and Mexico City will be jointly financed by the federal government and the State of Mexico. The existing plan is for the first phase of the “Toluca-Valley of Mexico Interurban Passenger Train” to end at the Metro Observatorio station in Mexico City, but a later phase would extend this line to Mexico City Airport. This new 2.7-billion-dollar rail line, capable of carrying 300,000 passengers a day, will run from Toluca via the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of Santa Fe to Metro Observatorio, reducing the travel time between Toluca and Metro Observatorio by more than an hour to around 40 minutes, with corresponding positive environmental impacts. Construction of the new line, which will include 4 intermediate stations, is due to begin later this year, and scheduled to be completed by 2018.

A separate 115-million-dollar project is underway to reduce highway congestion between Toluca and Mexico City. To boost the road transport capacity between the two cities, a multi-lane second tier is being added to 15 kilometers of the existing Mexico City-Toluca highway, from La Marquesa to Paseo Tollocan, at the entrance to Toluca.

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Absolute distance, relative distance and the vagaries of air travel within Mexico

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on Absolute distance, relative distance and the vagaries of air travel within Mexico
Jul 152010

In an earlier post we looked at the importance of Mexico City airport in the national network of airports. In this post, we focus our attention more on the network, and much less on any individual airport.

Alberto Braniff's biplane, modern jet and Mexico's airport network in 1960

Air travel greatly distorts the map of Mexico and the world. In terms of travel time on public transport, Mexico City’s airport is closer to Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco, than to some areas in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area!

Similarly, Guadalajara is closer to Hong Hong by air—21 hours for the 13,000 km—than to some communities only 200 km away in northern Jalisco which require a trek of over 24 hours by bus, taxi and foot.

Business executives fly 2300 km from Tijuana to Mexico City, work for six hours in the city, and fly back the same day. Commuting to the same office takes longer for some Metro area residents who live only 50 km away, but have to contend with traffic congestion.

Air travel, coupled with  familiarity, significantly influences our perceptions of distance. A Guadalajara traveling executive perceives Mexico City as being closer to his home than slum areas within 20 km of his house. Downtown Mexico City seems much closer to a person who commutes there daily from 40 km away than to a neighbor who works locally and only goes downtown once a year.

Transportation systems greatly affect our perception of distance. Depending on connections, air travel is not always the quickest means of transport.

The straight line distance from Mazatlán to Durango is 245 km. The fastest air connection goes through Mexico City and involves flying over 1500 km. It takes seven hours, longer than the inter-city bus! A direct flight would take about 45 minutes. When an expressway connects the two cities, the drive will take less than three hours. Though the straight line distance between them is about the same as that between Querétero and Mexico City, the travel and perceived distance is far greater. This example demonstrates how existing transportation systems affect our perceptions of distance.

“Distance” can also be looked at in terms of costs. In Geo-Mexico, we look at the distinction between absolute distance measured in kilometers and relative distance in terms of cost. We include a graph plotting distance against the price of one-way economy-class direct flights from Mexico City to 28 cities for a random mid-week day in April 2009. The graph shows that there is very little connection between flying distance (or flight times) and ticket price (For statistically inclined readers, rs = 0.14).  Rather than discussing this further here, we suggest you consider purchasing a copy of the book for a more in-depth analysis!

This is an excerpt from chapter 17 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. which discusses transportation systems, including air travel and the national network of airports.

The importance of Mexico City’s International Airport

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on The importance of Mexico City’s International Airport
Apr 132010

Mexico City’s Benito Juárez international Airport handled 26.2 million passenger movements last year, making it the world’s 43rd busiest terminal, according to the Airports Council International. In terms of flights, Mexico City airport was the world’s 30th busiest, with 366,000 take-offs and landings. For freight, it was the 48th largest in the world, with 376,000 tons of cargo going through it last year. The Airports Council International is a non-profit organization which serves as the “voice of the world’s airports”.

The numbers make Mexico City airport the most important in Latin America. The on-going modernization of Terminal 1 will expand the airport’s capacity to 32 million passenger movements a year. The airport has parking spaces for 6,514 vehicles, and is served by a metro line, city bus lines, and 1,485 licensed taxis (belonging to 7 different companies). The terminal is also served by 8 mid-distance bus lines, offering regular service to the cities of Córdoba, Cuernavaca, Pachuca, Puebla, Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Toluca.

Nationwide, of the roughly 50 million air passengers each year, about half are domestic and half international. Commercial air service started in Mexico in the 1920s. The main route was Mexico City–Tuxpan–Tampico–Brownsville, Texas. By the 1930s, flights were available to Los Angeles, Cuba, Guatemala and El Salvador. Jet services to USA and European cities started in the 1960s. The routes have expanded steadily and now connect Mexico’s 29 national and 57 international airports.

Mexico City’s airport accounts for about 35% of the national total number of passenger movements, followed by Cancún (10.5%),  Guadalajara (almost 9%), Monterrey (7.4%), Tijuana (5.3%) and Puerto Vallarta (Jalisco) and San José del Cabo (Baja California Sur) each with 3.6%.

International comparisons

Mexico averages about 370 air passenger movements per year per 1000 population, compared to 2430 for the USA, 1400 for Canada, 202 for Brazil and 179 for Argentina. While air travel is growing, it remains a distant third behind automobile and bus travel.

Mexico’s transportation systems, including airports, are discussed in chapter 17 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.