Mammoth Find Disrupts Progress On New Mexico City Airport

This week, a Mexican judge ordered the protection of mammoth remains that were found in the construction of Mexico City’s new airport. The discovery of bones of over 60 mammoths in the area is the largest in the history of Mexican Ice Age paleontology. Let’s investigate further. 

Aeroméxico B737 NG y Aeroméxico Connect Embraer
Mexico is building a new airport at Santa Lucia’s military base. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno/Simple Flying

The new elephant in the room

Santa Lucía International Airport is a controversial topic in Mexico. Mexicans either love it, or they hate it. The current Mexican Government decided to scrap the construction of a previous airport that already been 30% developed under the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018). 

The main reason that the current Mexican Government canceled is that this airport (known as New International Mexico Airport, or NAIM, in Spanish) was one based on corruption. So, to scrap it, the Government made a dubious referendum among the Mexican people. There were two options: continue building the NAIM or reject it and create a new airport at the Military Base of Santa Lucía. The second option was chosen by an enormous margin. 

The goal was to open this new Santa Lucía International Airport on 21 March 2022. So, the Government and the Mexican army worked around the clock to build this airport from the ground up.

Taking the opening date into account, anything that delays the construction becomes a rather disruptive obstacle. Recently, the military found the remains of over 60 mammoths and some archeological remains. As a result, a judge ordered these remains protected.

Canceled New Mexico City International Airport
Before Santa Lucía, Mexico was building a new airport. It was scrapped after 30% of its completion. Photo: Getty Images

Will this stop the building of the airport?

It is doubtful that anything will stop the building of the Santa Lucía Airport. Even though the judge ordered the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to report if the construction interferes with the archeological work, he didn’t stop the airport’s construction. 

He added, though, that archeological and paleontological relics have to be protected. Uncovering them has priority over the construction of the airport, said local newspapers

Recently, the Government decided to cancel the new terminal that it was planning to build at Mexico City International Airport. In a statement, the Government said that the new terminal was unnecessary. Instead, Santa Lucia, Mexico City’s International, and Toluca Airport will sustain the future air travel demand in Mexico. However, at the moment no one knows how Mexican aviation will look post-coronavirus

Santa Lucía
Santa Lucía has worked over the last years as a military base. Now it will become a commercial airport. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno/Simple Flying

How will the new airport work?

As the people that have traveled into Mexico City know, the airport is located in the middle of the city. The location makes it very convenient. Meanwhile, Santa Lucia Airport will be far from Mexico City’s downtown, and there’s no much connectivity at the moment. 

This lack of transport to and from the new airport worries many experts in the industry. Some people have said that Santa Lucía airport might become a white elephant (or a wooly mammoth?) Some say this new project has a future similar to the new Berlin Brandenberg airport or the Mirabel Airport in Montreal. 

Meanwhile, the Mexican Government argues that Santa Lucía airport will have a capacity for 20 million passengers per year in the first phase. It says that, over the years, that capacity will increase. Between the three airports that Mexico City will have, there will be capacity for over 80 million passengers from 2021 onwards. 

The question that remains is which airlines are going to fly to Santa Lucía? No one knows how many airlines will survive the coronavirus crisis and how affected their operations will be. For instance, if any significant Mexican carrier disappears or contracts, this will open up slots at Mexico City airport.

Low-cost carriers might find Santa Lucía airport attractive from a cost perspective. But, if the passengers are unhappy with the transportation between Mexico City and Santa Lucía, this may affect airline bookings. There are still many doubts surrounding this new airport. Indeed, the mammoths seem to be the smallest issue of them all. 

What do you think of Santa Lucía International Airport? Let us know in the comments.