Take Offs & Land­ings

A Look South­ward – Latin hubs make progress. Boingo an­nounces Hotspot 2.0 at 21 air­ports. Mu­nich ex­pan­sion OK’d. Plus new route news.

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE - By Jerome Greer Chan­dler

In­ter­na­tional pas­sen­ger de­mand to Latin Amer­ica is bur­geon­ing, beget­ting stronger air­lines and bet­ter air­ports. Con­sider: ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion, Latin car­ri­ers posted an 8.1 per­cent rise in de­mand in 2013 vs. 2012. Af­ter the Mid­dle East, this was the“sec­ond-strong­est [re­gional] per­for­mance” on the planet.

Leading the pace of that ro­bust progress are some key air­fields:

Bo­gotá El Do­rado In­ter­na­tional (BOG)

is Avianca’s prime hub. One of the re­gion’s his­toric pi­o­neers, Avianca merged with Sal­vado­ran car­rier TACA in 2010 to fash­ion a for­mi­da­ble, ser­vice-in­ten­sive com­peti­tor.

In terms of sheer size, home­port El Do­rado is im­mense. It’s 1,700-acre ex­panse is graced by a pair of 12,467-foot run­ways tai­lor-made for launch­ing in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal flights. From BOG you can con­nect to the likes of La Paz and Lima, as well as smaller cities such as Villav­i­cen­cio and Yopal. That’s the ad­van­tage of a net­work car­rier, one with real reach.

Han­dling much of the traf­fic is El Do­rado’s new In­ter­na­tional Ter­mi­nal. Opened in 2012 the fu­tur­is­tic af­fair has twice as many im­mi­gra­tion counters as the old digs, dou­ble the check-in counters too. Bo­gotá’s el­e­gant ed­i­fice is a light-suf­fused, am­ply ven­ti­lated space packed with more places to eat, drink and spend.

Cancun In­ter­na­tional (CUN) may be the con­sum­mate leisure-cen­tric air­port on the con­ti­nent. But it also han­dles a sur­pris­ing num­ber of busi­ness trav­el­ers bound for the beach re­sort to get in a bit of con­fer­enc­ing. It’s not so much a hub as an om­niv­o­rous O&D (ori­gin and des­ti­na­tion) air­port. Af­ter Mex­ico City, it’s Mex­ico’s busiest air­field, grow­ing by 10.4 per­cent in 2013 com­pared to 2012.

To keep up with de­mand, CUN sports a pair of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tally-ca­pa­ble par­al­lel run­ways. In the works is a 20-gate Ter­mi­nal 4. When it’s fin­ished Cancun can claim 88 gates in all. Cancun has racked up its share of tro­phies. In 2011 it won Air­port Coun­cil In­ter­na­tion­als ’kudo as Best Air­port in Latin Amer­ica – Caribbean. The award is pegged to ser­vice.

While some largely leisure air­ports are bereft of air­port clubs, Cancun has two of them. You’ll find the Busi­ness Lounge après se­cu­rity in Ter­mi­nals 2 and 3.

Panama City Toc­u­men In­ter­na­tional

(PTY) sits atop the nar­row isth­mus that con­nects North and South Amer­ica, an apt place for what’s emerg­ing as the re­gion’s “big con­nect­ing hub,” ac­cord­ing to Josh Marks, CEO of masF­light, an avi­a­tion data and an­a­lyt­ics firm. “The fu­ture is go­ing to be Panama,” agrees Mike Boyd, pres­i­dent of avi­a­tion con­sult­ing firm Boyd Group In­ter­na­tional. He la­bels Panama City “the Sin­ga­pore of the hemi­sphere.”

Copa is king at PTY, one of the most ex­pan­sive air­lines in ei­ther North or South Amer­ica. Its traf­fic has been grow­ing by dou­ble-dig­its. Plans were by the be­gin­ning of this year for Copa to be fly­ing 90 air­planes, an in­creas­ing pro­por­tion of them new, larger Boe­ing 737-800 Next Gen­er­a­tion twin­jets.

You can shelve the “banana repub­lic” ref­er­ences. Panama is a bonafide eco­nomic pow­er­house. Latin Amer­i­can trade is hot just now, and the commercial waves em­anate from Panama City. Copa is the link, and Toc­u­men the linch­pin.

PTY has un­der­gone a multi-stage ex­pan­sion since 2006. The lat­est it­er­a­tion

Be­low: Bo­gotá El Do­rado In­ter­na­tional, Cancun In­ter­na­tional

of this growth is Ter­mi­nal Muelle Norte. A com­pletely new fa­cil­ity, its dozen gates are con­nected to the main pas­sen­ger ter­mi­nal via mov­ing side­walks. In all, in­clu­sive of re­mote board­ing spa­ces, it sports 40 gates. Muelle Norte opened in 2012.

Quito Air­port Mariscal Su­cre (UIO) is on our list too. Not be­cause the Ecuado­rian air­field is a ma­jor hub, not even be­cause it of­fers ser­vice to the wildly other world­ish Gala­pa­gos Is­land. We added UIO be­cause of the dra­matic im­prove­ment its new air­port rep­re­sents.

If the old Mariscal Su­cre air­field made for breath­tak­ing land­ings (lit­er­ally) the new sub­ur­ban site of the same name of­fers sim­i­larly stim­u­lat­ing sce­nar­ios. It’s a $750-mil­lion af­fair that sports a run­way long enough to han­dle the gar­gan­tuan A380, even of­fer non­stop flights to Europe. It’s the length­i­est in Latin Amer­ica. An­dean al­ti­tudes, and less length, limited the reach of non­stop flights from the old air­port. It’s no co­in­ci­dence that in­ter­na­tional traf­fic blos­somed by 12.8 per­cent dur­ing the first quar­ter of 2013 com­pared to a year ear­lier. The new UIO opened in Fe­bru­ary 2013.

New route pos­si­bil­i­ties are flood­ing in, in­clud­ing feel­ers from Air France and Air Canada. In a ma­jor sig­nal, per­haps, of bet­ter things to come, Ibe­ria be­gan fly­ing non­stop thrice-weekly from Quito to Madrid last Fall.

If you haven’t fre­quented Quito since then get ready for some changes – for the good. Quito Air­port Cen­tre sports a new food court, more commercial ser­vices, a new VIP lounge, ex­panded duty-free, and a 5-star, 140-room ho­tel for folks who don’t want to make the trip into the city. It too can be lengthy.

Rio de Janeiro/Galeão-An­to­nio Car­los

Jo­bim In­ter­na­tional Air­port (GIG) is the por­tal through which world-class ath­letes and their fol­low­ers will be flow­ing fast over the next two-and-a-half years. They’ll be Rio-bound for the 2014 FIFA World Cup of foot­ball (the round, non-ovu­lar kind) and the 2016 Sum­mer Olympic Games.

To pre­pare for the in­flux, Ter­mi­nals 1 and 2 un­der­went ma­jor makeover and the air­port laid down loads more park­ing spa­ces. These sorely-needed ter­mi­nal ren­o­va­tions mean trendy Rio should be able to han­dle as many as 43-mil­lion pas­sen­gers per year.

Amer­i­cans al­ready love Rio, and have loved it for years. The United States was, be­hind Ar­gentina, the sec­ond-largest lofter of leisure trav­el­ers to the city in 2012. A full 159,997 of them flew down to Rio. They love the city and crave Copaca­bana. What they don’t nec­es­sar­ily love is the air­port. The Rio Times quotes one pas­sen­ger ar­riv­ing a while back as say­ing, “I thought the air­port was pretty lack­lus­ter. The bag­gage claim es­pe­cially felt creaky and

Latin Amer­i­can trade is hot just now, and the commercial waves em­anate from Panama City

the clam­or­ing taxi driv­ers out­side gave it a ‘Wild West’ feel.”

The up­date will be wel­come.

São Paulo Guarul­hos In­ter­na­tional

Air­port (GRU) is the largest air­port in Brazil’s largest city. It’s a no-non­sense busi­ness­port, serv­ing some 35 mil­lion pas­sen­gers per year. Fly­ers flow through three ter­mi­nals: TPS1, TPS2 and TPS4.

In an­tic­i­pa­tion that it’s go­ing to be see­ing a sig­nif­i­cant slice of the traf­fic ul­ti­mately bound for Rio’s sport­ing events, GRU too is re­work­ing a cou­ple of ter­mi­nals. On tap for Ter­mi­nals 1 and 2: ex­pan­sion of bag­gage han­dling, pass­port con­trol and se­cu­rity screen­ing, new sig­nage, ren­o­vated es­ca­la­tors and el­e­va­tors, more park­ing and bet­ter re­strooms, an over­looked amenity mak­ing an air­ports hos­pitable.

On the way is TPS3, the air­port’s fourth fa­cil­ity. It will in­clude a 50-room ho­tel, lo­cated in the re­stricted area in­side the ter­mi­nal, be­fore im­mi­gra­tion con­trol. It’s largely in­tended for pas­sen­gers with con­nect­ing flights.

From left: Panama City Toc­u­men In­ter­na­tional, Quito Air­port Mariscal Su­cre, Rio de Janeiro/ Galeão-An­to­nio Car­los Jo­bim In­ter­na­tional Air­port, São Paulo Guarul­hos In­ter­na­tional Air­port

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