AICM Continues to Face Operation Challenges
Mexico City International Airport (AICM) starts 2022 with multiple setbacks in its operations. Challenges include several canceled flights due to COVID-19 outbreaks within aircrews, constant flight delays, and a lack of investment to improve the airport’s infrastructure and connectivity.
Regarding flights punctuality, national and international airlines arriving at AICM stand out for not being punctual. According to data from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation (SICT), between January and September 2021, 28.5 percent of flights suffered a delay. The approximate average of international flights is much higher, with 47.9 percent of flights delayed. Fernando Gómez, an aviation specialist, commented that flight delays are mainly caused due to a lack of airline personnel and the automation of processes at the AICM.
Flight delays sum up to flight cancellations. Due to a resurge in COVID-19 during the first weeks of January, more than 648 flights have been canceled due to outbreaks within aircrews. Aeromexico has been the most affected, accounting for 87 percent of cancellations by January 13. The high level of contagion among flight attendants and pilots has generated a reduced availability for operation coverage, resulting in a significant number of flight delays and cancellations.
Apart from these pandemic issues, the AICM faces structural challenges, such as a lack of maintenance, recovering connectivity, and standardizing operations with other airports. Last week, Carlos Morán Moguel was appointed the new AICM Director and was given the assignment to rearrange the Mexican air transit space so that both the AICM and the new International Airport Felipe Angeles (AIFA) (under construction) can operate simultaneously. However, the challenges the AICM is facing are not only in its airspace. Although it continues to be the country's main terminal, AICM has not yet recovered the passenger traffic pre-pandemic levels, in 2021 it handled 28.3 percent fewer users than in 2019.
Prior to the pandemic, the AICM had terminal saturation in counters, corridors, migration, and baggage belts. These issues have worsened in the last two years since multiple infrastructure problems have added up to detract passengers' experience. Fernando Gómez Suárez, an aviation specialist, pointed out that "Morán will have to address the lack of maintenance that exists, from leaks to problems that cause flooding, drainage, and enclosures, since the excuse has always been that it rained like never before. The reality is that the rainwater evacuation systems are insufficient."
AIMC infrastructure faces deep deterioration, but no funds for investment are available. The Airport Use Tax (TUA) will be allocated to meet the financial debts from the cancellation of the Texcoco airport, and the government’s priority is the inauguration of AIFA by March. TUA represented one of the primary incomes the airport had to spend on the maintenance of its terminals. AICM receives half of the country’s passengers, even with the inauguration of AIFA, its international relevance will remain. Juan Antonio José, another aviation specialist, declared that “AICM facilities have been subject to reduced investment in maintenance and repair of facilities in recent years and this has impacted passenger experience. The airport can no longer afford to continue with decrepit facilities."