Mexico is only four months away from the inauguration of a new international airport for Mexico City. This new hub, called Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA, or IATA code NLU), will simultaneously serve the current Mexico City International Airport (MEX) and Toluca International Airport (TLC). Nevertheless, many doubts remain as to its eventual success. Let’s see the pros and cons of NLU.
Despite the controversy surrounding NLU, the current Mexican government was able to build a new airport in just three years. The new airport is scheduled to open for commercial service on March 21, 2022. In recent months, several members of the airline industry have visited the construction zone.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the Airport Council International (ACI) have praised NLU from an infrastructure perspective.
In addition, Volaris and Viva Aerobus believe that there is a growing market in the area. Up to five million people live near the airport, and there are a few towns nearby that could benefit from the new hub. Low cost carriers could launch point-to-point routes from NLU.
Volaris has announced two new routes from NLU. It will connect daily with Tijuana and Cancun. Likewise, Viva Aerobus has announced two routes to Guadalajara and Monterrey. Venezuelan carrier Conviasa has also expressed interest in the new airport. Finally, freight carriers could also be interested in the hub, although no formal announcement has been made.
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While IATA praised Mexico’s new airport, it also pointed out a few issues.
NLU does not have an efficient way to connect to Mexico City. Getting to the airport from the city center can be long and expensive. The government is working to solve this problem by building new roads and a metro system, although this may take some time.
The management of the airspace of NLU, MEX and TLC also remains a possible problem.
At a press conference, Peter Cerdá, IATA’s regional vice president for the Americas, urged the Mexican government to properly implement airspace management designed for the simultaneous operation of the three airports.
Mexico’s current status in Category 2 with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is also an issue. Mexican airlines cannot launch new routes to the United States until Mexico regains Category 1. Therefore, NLU may remain a national hub for the foreseeable future.
Finally, while there are four confirmed routes from NLU, there is a lack of interest from other carriers in the new airport. Aeromexico has said it will not launch flights from NLU in the short term. International carriers (other than Conviasa) will remain in MEX due to the extended benefits.
Moreover, four routes is hardly a triumph for a new airport which is expected to handle up to 18 million passengers per year during its first phase. We will need to closely monitor the development of NLU in its early months.
The bottom line
Mexico City’s new airport will experience some very difficult months. Nevertheless, it looks like it will remain the alternative to MEX.
The government is currently pushing a campaign to turn the grounds of Texcoco’s unfinished airport into a national park. If it is successful, it would be very complex in the future to restart the construction of the scrapped airport.
Many questions remain regarding NLU. Only time will tell if NLU becomes a successful airport or is a commercial white elephant (like Toluca).
Would you be interested in a flight from Felipe Ángeles International Airport? Which of the advertised routes would you like to try? Let us know in the comments below?