Hector Espinosa
Director General
Toluca International Airport (AIT)
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View from the Top

More Flights, Destinations Among Keys for AIT

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 18:21

Q: What are the main advantages that AIT offers and how does the airport plan to use them to increase its competitiveness?

A: AIT has among the largest volume of private aviation in Mexico and Latin America, including commercial, cargo and executive aviation. One of the airport’s greatest advantages is its runway measuring 4.2km, which makes it the largest in the country. The airport has the capacity for 36 operations per hour and can receive up to 8 million passengers a year. It has the necessary infrastructure to host any kind of commercial airplane.

The airport also has unique stockholders in OHL, the State of Mexico government and the Airports and Auxiliary Services (ASA) representing the federal government. This association operates under the name Administradora Mexiquense del Aeropuerto Internacional de Toluca (AMAIT). The collaboration with OHL has been fruitful as this consolidated company is committed to the airport’s growth. Within our model, the federal and state governments hold 51 percent of the airport while OHL holds the remaining shares.

In 2015, we had four international routes. The goal is to bring back more flights and to expand our destinations. We recently had a visit from Egypt’s ambassador who manages several interesting projects, including direct passenger and cargo flights to Cairo.

Q: What led to AIT’s loss of passenger traffic and how is the airport turning this around?

A: AIT has faced many fluctuations over its more than 30 years of history. The airport enjoyed its strongest period in 2008 when it reached 4 million passengers, influenced mainly by the birth of low-cost airlines Interjet and Volaris. The 2008 crisis heavily impacted several economic sectors in Europe and the US, effects that eventually reached Mexico’s aeronautics sector and led to Mexicana’s bankruptcy. After the airline closed down it released all its landing and takeoff slots in AICM, which the previously mentioned low-cost airlines took on, leading to a reduction in AIT’s operations and passengers. From 2008, passenger flow has been gradually decreasing. Last year we had around 900,000 passengers but during the vacation seasons at Easter and Christmas passenger numbers rose considerably. The expectation for 2016 is that passenger traffic will remain steady, near to 1 million passengers.

Our greatest challenges are to increase connectivity within the State of Mexico and to attract the largest possible number of commercial airlines, as the airport is already strong in private aviation. AIT is consolidated and well positioned. We only need to promote its image. Passenger flow may even increase due to the inclusion of airlines such as TAR Aerolíneas, the fourth most important airline in AIT after Interjet, Volaris and Aeroméxico. TAR has grown soundly and we expect to grow alongside it.

Q: What is AIT doing to attract more airlines to its facilities?

A: To attract airlines we have to communicate that the airport is a fast, efficient, safe and comfortable alternative to AICM, which is oversaturated. We are offering incentives via airport tariffs and promotional materials to national and international companies to attract them to AIT. Our proximity to Mexico City is an advantage, as we are just 40km away from the capital and 25 minutes away from Santa Fe, a strong economic center. Due to this location AIT is often the airport of choice for the international flights of specific events. For instance, we received US President Barack Obama in 2014 and we will receive the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans this year.

AIT has significant potential in the metropolitan zone of Toluca and neighboring areas. The State of Mexico has strong industry and it is close to several states that are home to formidable manufacturing sectors. Furthermore, many infrastructure projects will improve connectivity to the state and the airport, including the Toluca to Naucalpan and Toluca to Ixtapan de la Sal highways and the new section of the highway connecting Toluca with La Marquesa. These projects will increase road safety and facilitate access to the airport both from within the state and from Mexico City. The Interurban Train linking Santa Fe with Toluca, to be inaugurated in 2017, will also facilitate passenger access to the airport.

Q: Toluca is Mexico’s strongest city for general aviation. What does this sector represent for the airport’s operations?

A: The airport has about 200 daily operations. Of those, 85 percent are for private aviation and the rest are commercial flights. It hosts 45 private airlines. The private aviation sector is a strong driver of the airport’s economy and AIT offers several advantages to this sector. For operations to run efficiently, the AIT depends on the services and support of federal authorities, customs and the Ministry of Sanitation, Safety and Agriculture (SENASICA), among other authorities located inside the airport.

AIT houses FedEx facilities, one of the largest cargo airlines in the world. This company moves 99 percent of cargo in the airport, 94 percent for international destinations, representing US$1.5 billion per year. The company is now developing an expansion project. AIT is planning for the construction of a cargo terminal, which will eventually permit the transportation of 1,300 tons per year and support the development of local industry.

The state has an unmatched manufacturing industry. With a share of 13.4 percent, the state is the top manufacturer in Mexico and the second largest contributor to GDP, representing 9.3 percent. It also is well connected with 828.5km of highways. For these reasons, the state is in a perfect location to become a hub for cargo and commercial aviation.

Q: What other projects is AIT developing to become an attractive destination for commercial and executive aviation?

A: Alongside the federal government, our goal is to have the airport approved for preclearance operations, which will streamline customs procedures by permitting foreign flights to enter as domestic and to perform all necessary authorizations locally. We are well aware that many of the airport’s flights are from the US and this authorization will increase the airport’s competitiveness for international executive and commercial flights. This preclearance authorization is a medium-term plan as approval usually takes between 12 to 36 months. But depending on the conditions of the airport, approval could take up to 10 years. If successfully introduced, AIT will become one of the first airports in Mexico to implement this procedure.

We also have a short-term project to modernize the airport’s facade and to renew the tunnels with modern jetways. These projects will improve AIT’s image and make it more attractive to national and international airlines.