2022 will mark an important milestone in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's mega infrastructure projects. Yesterday, he announced the dates for the inauguration of the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) and the refinery in Dos Bocas. AIFA will begin operations on March 21 when a massive celebration is planned. Government’s enthusiasm aside, many doubts surround the airport’s operations.
According to Proceso, the airport is 78 percent complete and has used 75 percent of its MX$75 billion (US$3.65 billion) budget. During his announcement, President López Obrador said the project would be finished in record time and with a much lower budget compared to the cancelled airport in Texcoco. He also recognized the important role of the military in accomplishing this project.
Previous critiques to the AIFA include the inconvenience of transportation to the airport, the involvement of the military in its construction and management and the problems it would create in the Mexican airspace.
When the airport at Texcoco was cancelled and AIFA began construction, experts warned of potential trouble in meeting international standards regarding airspace. AIFA will operate simultaneously with the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) and Toluca International Airport. While their proximity challenged international standards, the project continued with no changes.
As the inauguration date approaches, another key element adds concern: only three commercial airlines have announced they will fly from AIFA: Mexican low-cost airlines Volaris and VivaAerobus, which shared the news in late October; and Venezuelan airline Conviasa. Each of the two Mexican airlines will open two routes, which include flights to Cancun, Tijuana, Guadalajara and Monterrey. Meanwhile, Aeroméxico and international carriers such as American Airlines, Air Canada and Copa Airlines have denied having plans for operating in the new airport. The lack of supply of national and international destinations does not contribute to diminishing saturation in the AICM, one of the key purposes of AIFA.
Moreover, AIFA's location poses a challenge for passengers, as transportation to the area is limited. From the 10 infrastructure projects that were to provide different options of transportation from Mexico City and its metropolitan area to the AIFA, two will not be ready until 2023: the subway from Lencheria and the extension of the Mexibus system. Access to the airport can now only be achieved through two new highways that connect Mexico City with the airport. The lack of sufficient transportation options that enable the use of the AIFA and the lack of flights offered puts the success of President López Obrador’s airport in question.