Mexico City’s new international airport opens with few flights

Mexico City’s new international airport opens with few flights

Mexico City’s new international airport opens with few flights

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on March 21 inaugurated a new international airport for Mexico City - one of his flagship projects - but so far many airlines are hesitant to use it.

Felipe Angeles International Airport, built at a military air base north of the capital, began operating with a domestic Aeromexico flight bound for Villahermosa in Obrador’s home state of Tabasco.

“The airport is 100 percent complete,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference held at the new airport. “It’s just a matter of airlines increasing their trips” from Felipe Angeles, he said.

The opening of Lopez Obrador’s first major infrastructure project comes as Mexicans prepare to vote on April 10 in a midterm recall referendum championed by the president on whether he should stay in office.

So far, only three national airlines - Volaris, Viva Aerobus and Aeromexico - as well as Venezuela’s Conviasa have agreed to operate a limited number of mostly domestic flights from Felipe Angeles. The new terminal will handle only about 16 flights per day, in part because it is so far from the city and rail links and expressways have yet to be completed. On March 21, only about 2,000 passengers used the new terminal, a far cry from the 2.4 million the government hopes to attract by the end of the year.

Obrador said he was optimistic that Mexico would soon recover its Category 1 aviation safety rating from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, following a downgrade last year that prevents U.S. carriers from opening new services or routes to the country.

Felipe Angeles, named after a general in the Mexican revolution, is meant to take the pressure off Benito Juarez airport, which will continue operating.

Benito Juarez, which handled a record 50.3 million passengers in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic, is one of the busiest airports in Latin America.

After taking office in 2018, Lopez Obrador canceled another airport project launched by the previous government that was already one-third complete. He branded the $13 billion project a “bottomless pit” rife with corruption and tasked the military with overseeing construction of the new airport at a cost of around $3.7 billion.