Mexico City’s New Terminal Canceled – Was It Even Needed?

Over the weekend, the Mexican Government canceled the construction of Terminal 3 at Mexico City International Airpot (AICM). After seeing the effects of the current pandemic, the Mexican Government decided that Terminal 3 was unnecessary to cope with future demand. Let’s investigate further. 

Mexico canceled the construction of the third terminal in Mexico City International Airport. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno/Simple Flying

Did Mexico need a Terminal 3 in the first place?

The construction of Terminal 3 at the AICM was announced last year. The Government said it was going to allow more passengers into the congested Mexico City airport. 

In 2019, the AICM had over 52 million passengers, and since 2013 it is technically saturated. Nevertheless, year after year, the AICM has grown, and it can even handle up to 80 operations during peak hours. Additionally, the AICM has two runways, but it can’t use them simultaneously because there’s not enough distance between them. 

Many experts said that the problem wasn’t the terminals. The issue of the AICM was the lack of capacity in the airspace to cope with more airplanes per hour. So, in that regard, many experts saw Terminal 3 as a waste of money. 

The Government said, 

“The objective of this modern terminal, with 17 additional contact positions, was to improve the quality service of the passengers”. 

Aeropuerto de Toluca
Mexico plans to have three airports in the future for the capital: AICM, Toluca, and Santa Lucía. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno/Simple Flying

Why was it canceled?

Mexico had the worst performance of its air industry in both April and May. For instance, Aeromexico had a 91% traffic decrease in April. In May, it was worse, with a decline of 92.4%. Volaris, even though it had impressive load factors, also has had a near 90% decrease in its traffic volumes. Interjet is currently operating with three airplanes and has lost 60 aircraft to leasing companies, and Viva Aerobus is also trying to cope with the lower demand. 

With that in mind, the Mexican Government concluded: there’s no need for a new terminal at Mexico City. 

“Due to the pandemic, the operational needs have changed. The demand of passengers in the air industry, in Mexico and elsewhere, has fallen importantly, and it will take between two and four years to recover the levels we had in February 2020,” said the Mexican Government in a statement. 

The current Mexican Government, led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is building a new airport at a military base outside of Mexico City. Photo: Daniel Martínez Garbuno/Simple Flying.

What about the new airport?

As we know, the current Mexican Government is building a new airport in the military base of Santa Lucía, outside of Mexico City. The Government plants to inaugurate it on 21 March 2022. Once it is open, Mexico City will have three nearby airports that will function as a system allowing for more passengers and less saturation. Or, at least, that’s the idea. 

Putting into aside the question of whether Santa Lucia will be a white whale (like Mirabel in Montreal or Berlin’s new airport), the doubt right now is if Mexico City needs a new airport? The International Air Transport Association has said no. The Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association has also said no. But the Mexican Government says yes. So it is still building it. 

According to the latest data, Santa Lucía International Airport will have an initial capacity to receive 20 million passengers a year. This will allow Mexico City to have up to 80 million passengers per year if we add the 52 million at AICM and eight million at Toluca. 

The problem is that these predictions happened when the world had no idea that a pandemic was coming over. No one currently knows how long it will take before things go back to normal. When will Mexico City Airport receive again over 50 million passengers? How many airlines will operate in Mexico, domestically, and internationally, after the pandemic? There are too many questions out there.

What do you think of Mexico’s decision to keep on building a new airport? Let us know in the comments.