Home Travel Mexico City’s New Airport Opened; It’s A Disaster

Mexico City’s New Airport Opened; It’s A Disaster

by SharonKurheg

Over the years, Mexico has become a very popular country for visitors; especially for those from the United States. In fact, the World Tourism Organization says that Mexico is the sixth-most visited country in the world, and second in the Americas.

There’s little wonder for this…Mexico has a bunch of UNESCO World Heritage sites (ancient ruins, colonial cities, and natural reserves), as well as several famous works of modern public and private architecture. The country offers cultural festivals, colonial cities, nature reserves and beach resorts. On top of that, Mexico’s temperate climate and unique culture (kind of a fusion of the European and the Mesoamerican) are attractive to tourists. So over the past several decades, more and more people have been traveling to Mexico.

With so many visitors, Mexico City’s Benito Juarez Airport (MEX) had become way too congested. To try to make things better, back in 2014, Mexico City Texcoco Airport was announced. It would be about 3 miles from MEX, and was meant to replace the older airport. However, the project was canceled several years later, after it was decided that the new airport should be built at a different location.

Enter Felipe Ángeles International Airport.

Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU) was announced in 2019 and opened on March 21, 2022. Instead of replacing MEX, it’s meant to absorb some of its congestion, with a focus on low-cost and cargo airlines.

It’s got, shall we say, some issues. Lots of them.

The Problems

  • Location

Unlike Mexico City Texcoco Airport, NLU is nowhere near MEX. For that matter, it’s not even near Mexico City itself. Instead, it’s about 28 miles north-northeast of the center of Mexico City, if you go by car. There are supposed to be highways between NLU and MEX but they’re still under construction. So that leaves only local roads. Annnnd some of those are apparently still dirt roads, especially if you use a GPS.

On top of that, a planned rail link to connect the airport with the capital’s suburban train network isn’t scheduled to be completed until the second half of 2023.

Traffic in Mexico City is notoriously crazy. But Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wanted to prove that a person could drive from the city to the new airport in just 40 minutes. To ensure he could prove his point, when he left for the inauguration ceremony on Monday, he did so at 5 am…on a national holiday. What a guy, huh? Meanwhile, an online news company took a taxi from Mexico City’s Coyoacán borough to the airport – it took nearly two hours without traffic jams. And another woman, who lives in the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa, made the trek in (are you sitting down?) four hours.

Greaaaaat!

Meanwhile Uber isn’t available at NLU yet. The ride-hailing giant’s Mexican unit said in a statement to Reuters that it hopes to offer service “in the near future.” Non-airport taxis and other ride-sharing companies also aren’t allowed to enter airport grounds at this time. So transportation to/from this airport that’s multiple miles and hours from town is currently in very short supply.

So how DOES Mexican President López Obrador expect people to travel to/from NLU?

Air taxi.

“There will be taxis for everyone, but especially for those with additional financial resources,” the president was quoted in mexicobusiness.news. “We will literally take people from their homes to the airport. The services will be provided through private concessions. This service has been highly requested.” López Obrador suggested that three companies have already requested concessions, which, if approved, will be able to operate with a whopping two helicopters each.

I’m sure that will work out just beautifully.

  • Certification

The airport may have opened this week, but it still hasn’t been certified by Mexico’s Federal Agency of Civil Aviation (AFAC) as meeting safety standards set by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). An airport infrastructure specialist is suggesting that perhaps, “Somebody must have forgotten to do it in time.”

Ummmmm….sure.

Anyway, without certification, major international airlines haven’t registered to fly to the new airport, because they would run the risk of not being covered by their insurance in the event of an accident. Only one Venezuelan airline has taken a chance on international flights, to Caracas.

So this new “international” airport only has ONE international flight so far. And American, Delta and United’s willingness to fly to NLU even once it’s certified is questionable. When asked about the possibility, an American spokesperson said, “American is currently operating up to 13 daily flights between Benito Juárez International Airport … and the United States. We do not have any changes to our operation to share at this time.” (United and Delta didn’t even respond)

  • Amenities

The problem with amenities at NLU is that there simply aren’t any. The only foodservice company in the entire airport right now is a Starbucks – but on opening day it had no food and wasn’t serving coffee. There were also no convenience stores where people could get a candy bar or other snacks to tide them over. So if they were waiting for a ride that they weren’t sure would ever even come, they could wait hungry.

  • Capacity

As I mentioned earlier, unlike Texcoco Airport, which was supposed to take the place of Benito Juarez Airport, Felipe Ángeles International Airport is only supposed to absorb some of MEX’s congestion. NLU’s original predicted capacity was supposed to be just shy 20 million passengers per year. But that was based on their airport having the originally-planned 28 gates. It only has 14.

Well, OK then. Can we say cluster?

BTW, this isn’t the first project under Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s watch that’s had issues. He also had grand plans for a tourist train in the Yucatan Peninsula. But when construction on the Maya Train tourist project started, engineers discovered they couldn’t build an elevated stretch along the Caribbean coast, after all. It would mean closing down the region’s only highway. And that would be, you know, bad. So instead, they just began running the line through the jungle.

No comprehensive environmental impact statement. No feasibility plan. Just….do it. Oh, and BTW, nobody knows how many tourists will really use it.

Awesomesauce.

So yeah….for now, the new airport? It’s a mess. Right now only Volaris, Viva Aerobus and Aeromexico, and the aforementioned Conviasa from Venezuela are operating a handful of flights from Felipe Angeles.

Vaya con Dios. For reals.

H/T: Vourthouse News, KSTP.com, WTVB

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20 comments

Hugo March 27, 2022 - 9:33 pm

Classic paid pen from the ultra right wing in Mexico, good job to the writer of this very one sided editorial, your “disaster” will be corrected with time, but your paid editorial will be known later on as a classic “chayote” good thing people can check on their own and rely on REAL sources

Reply
SharonKurheg March 27, 2022 - 9:43 pm

Hi Hugo – we live in the United States and are not very well versed with the politics in Mexico. I simply read several articles about the opening, and this is the impression I got. If that’s not the case, terrific! If it’s a matter that needs to be improved with time, well, that’s a shame. An airport really should open with the proper certification, facilities, roads, etc. But I hope for the sake of the people who plan to travel to the new airport, buy things there, etc., that improvements happen more sooner than later.

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Juan Pablo March 27, 2022 - 11:58 pm

Ignore this person. The article was spot on. The person who complained is just a huge AMLO lover, he’s probably one of the people who was chanting “es un honor, estar con obrador” when the airport was opened while the corrupt AMLO just smiled as he “completed” his little personal political revenge project, because yes, Texcoco airport was started by the previous administration. That was a long sentence LOL. Seriously though, IGNORE THIS PERSON AND KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK.

y Hugo, ya parale no? Tu arrogancia va a destruir al país, especialmente si sigues votando por basura como amlo. Quieres que terminenos como Venezuela??? Porque pa ya vamos wey. Este tipo AMLO literal se quiere hacer dictador. Que no ves que pegado esta con la armada??? No te preocupa en lo mas minimo??? Asi empezaron Castro, Chavez, Mau, Lenin, etc. La neta no quiero que nuestro gran país termine como Venezuela. Porfa parale con to amor hacia amlo, ya pareces gringo… pero bueno, cuidate y que Dios de bendiga.

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Peter Aguiar March 28, 2022 - 2:56 pm

AMLO El mejor presidente de Mexico. Digas lo que Digas…..

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Eduardo Perez March 29, 2022 - 11:19 am

Pues no es lo que diga uno…Es un pésimo administrador Digas lo que Digas….igual de basura que los gobiernos anteriores…

Juan Pablo March 28, 2022 - 12:00 am

Also, the ‘sources’ he is tal king about are state backed outlets, very far from reliable news XD again, great article

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John March 28, 2022 - 1:29 am

Don’t waste your time trying to convince guys like “Hugo”. They are paid advocates of the current government, you can find them everywhere: social media, youtube channels, websites. Where there’s somebody criticizing the government’s decisions, they’ll show up. The new airport is a disaster indeed.

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Luc March 28, 2022 - 3:25 am

Hi, Thanks for sharing the facts with tourists. Tourists should make plans with useful information. No matter what left wing partisans want to make it appear, your comments are useful, no one wants to get off a plane without warning that they will be left starving, at least they should know in advance in order to buy food in advance for the after the flight, and see if they can make arrangements with locals in order to get a cab or something. Of course the whole issue of certification is of the utmost importance, no matter what some people might want to force us to think, if American or Delta will Not fly to that airport, readers with political bias cannot prove otherwise and change facts until NLU gets certified. This, of course, may possibly happen in the future when the airport is indeed finished, I hope this is the case for the sake of passengers and crew safety,

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Leo March 28, 2022 - 2:59 am

Oh dear Hugo. Not everyone that disagrees or critiques government projects is a paid actor. Stop being so childish and admit the faults that the government has (as any other government).

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David March 28, 2022 - 11:50 am

One of the workers handling our renovations in Mexico City also got hired to work on the airport. He didn’t know how he would get to work each day because of transport/infrastructure issues. This was about a month before it was due to open.

I naively guessed they would have to delay the airport opening. If workers who lived in the city were struggling to sort out their transport issues, I figured visitors would be in worse trouble trying to navigate. I was wrong, and they opened it as per the schedule anyway.

The government has seemed solidly focused on PR with this. An international airport is a pretty high-visibility affair, though, so getting the logistics wrong means the PR (at least among the traveling public) is going to be bad no matter how you spin it. If word spreads quickly among international frequent flyers, stories about bad travel experiences go at light speed.

The current airport can be a pain on a busy day, but the new one is far from the city, and I don’t think I’ll ever want to use it even when things are fully up and running. Both of the new airport efforts have been fiascos in my view. I just wish for an airport that runs properly, is not very far away, and won’t sink into a flood plain. Maybe that’s too many wishes for CDMX.

AM is so heavily integrated into MEX, that I imagine SkyTeam flights will mostly stay there unless the government wades in and forces AM to move to the other airport (which wouldn’t surprise me at this point). Here’s hoping Oneworld flights mostly stay there too. I’ll let others make their wishes for Star Alliance. 🙂

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David March 29, 2022 - 7:10 am

Airports this size take a while to get fully up and running. I am neutral first of all. I think for now its good that there so far only a few national flights a day. Once the ground staff have more practice and more nearby infrastructure gets built things will run more smoothly. There’s no way that you are going to have restaurants, lounges, Uber and every certification on day one of opening. As someone that rents and drives a lot in Mexico I like the location and that the airfield is shared with the military as they needed a better airfield and it was a good military engineering project. The area around the new airport could also use developing. Plus a lot of nearby historic ruins will get a boost in local tourism once nearby infrastructure is built up. Looking forward to the new public transit connection which will also be a much needed boost for the area and people that live there. I look forward to trying out the Tijuana, Villahermosa or Caracas flights. Hopefully as travel picks up more flights go to the new airport and also the Toluca airport. This airport makes since from a long term tourism perspective and a military perspective. Also as someone that has been to just over 2/3 of the states in Mexico I am pretty excited about the opening of the airport. I think this airport will turn out better than the Montreal Mirabel airport failure.

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Joseph March 28, 2022 - 4:08 pm

I lived in north part of Georgia where it took an hour to go to Altanta, never read any articles about the time it takes… Had flights at 6 in the morning and drove 3:30 be on time. It’s a new airport of course it wouldn’t have the transportation ready, from what I read, the president just wanted the airport to be opened in the date it was foretold, how many years did that other airport take in Texcoco for it to be at 30%.

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GARY PASH March 28, 2022 - 8:00 pm

AMLO is a backward thinking old fool that thinks he can resurrect the past and is completely unconcerned about progress. environment, and honestly, tje benefit of the Mexican people. MEX is an embarrassment and a bad reflection on a wonderful country. I live in Puerto Vallarta and refuse to use it to go to Miami

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Peter March 28, 2022 - 11:35 pm

Mexico is no backwards country? Backwards are people like you that always find a way to bring the country down.

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Omar March 29, 2022 - 12:46 am

The new airport is reaaally far from been ready to operate, really far from the city, and twice as far from being a realistict project, I live in México city and I rather fly from Toluca, than using this bad joke of an “airport” Use it, if what you are looking for is an extreme adventure and probably get mugged. BTW, no I’m not getting paid for writing this, just a regular guy, with a regular job, with enough brains, and a working set of ears and eyes to see all the lies AMLO say. Mark my words this airport is doom to failure.

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Cesar March 29, 2022 - 10:10 am

Before you write and article like this
You need to do a better job an investigation? not just reading what this “people” got to say
I just visited the airport from Queretaro and it’s awesome!

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SharonKurheg March 29, 2022 - 10:43 am

Hi Cesar! I’m glad you enjoyed your long ride and visit to the new airport. However what I wrote was much more than what “people” said. When the airport’s problems are so acute that it even gets coverage in the New York Times, I would say there are issues that need to be handled ASAP. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/25/world/americas/mexico-international-airport.html

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Enrique March 29, 2022 - 12:45 pm

An easy way to avoid the new airport is to not come to Mexico. we will not miss them

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David March 29, 2022 - 5:53 pm

Good point, Enrique. If the objective is to make things so undesirable that people stop coming and the tourism industry suffers, they are off to a good start!

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Arturo Alejandro Aguilar Rodriguez March 29, 2022 - 11:37 pm

I understand what you meant. Thanks and keep writing more messages around the Felipe Angeles airport.

Reply

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