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Mexico’s Canceled Airport Will Be Costly for Years to Come

Mexico’s Canceled Airport Will Be Costly for Years to Come
Scott Dylan

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the new government of Mexico have officially canceled all plans for the construction of a new airport in Mexico City. While that may be old news to some, it is news that will impact travelers for years to come. The decision to cancel plans for a new airport in Mexico City is a costly one. Of course, going through with construction plans would also have been quite costly; it is estimated that the new airport would have come with a total price tag of $13 billion. This is one of those situations in which nobody really wins.

How much does Mexico stand to lose as a result of the canceled airport project? You might want to hold on to your seat for this one: Somewhere around $5 billion will be lost when all is said and done. Why is the cost so high? Mexico’s government will be on the hook for cancellation fees related to contractors now that the airport project is officially canceled. In addition, it will be necessary to undo the portion of work that was already completed. That means razing structures that have been built. Mexico’s total annual budget is somewhere around $300 billion. The fact that so much money is being spent to try to erase the country’s airport project means that funds are being taken away from obligations like pensions and social services. You can expect that Mexico’s government will be paying bondholders for a long time to come.

The real losers in Mexico’s airport game are airline customers. Passengers will be paying for an airport they’ll never actually see or use every time they fly out of Mexico City for many years to come. Of course, the fact that passengers will see remnants of the structure that was supposed to be the new airport as they fly out of the existing hub will only add insult to injury. Higher fees will be added to ticket prices for passengers at the airport for the foreseeable future. What’s more, passengers will also pay with their time. That’s because Mexico City’s existing airport will remain congested now that no alternative airport will enter the picture. It will be nearly impossible for airport officials to make a case for raising fees even more to make much-needed upgrades at the existing airport now that so much money has been dumped into an airport that will never be.

President Obrador does have a plan for addressing congestion at Mexico City’s airport. However, it may leave passengers less than impressed. Obrador would like to build two new runways at a military base. In addition, he is pushing the idea of upgrading a smaller airport in Toluca. However, aviation researchers have already called that plan out for being unrealistic and potentially dangerous. Mexico’s president has yet to offer any comments regarding how he would pay for any of his proposals. However, it has been revealed that the cost of adding two runways at an existing military base would be $745 million.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (3)

3 Comments

  1. iflyjetz

    January 13, 2019 at 2:36 pm

    As a pilot who flies to MEX on a regular basis, I find it a shame that the new airport is being cancelled. The current airport is extremely congested and the city is sorely in need of a new airport.

  2. Pete.Felten

    January 16, 2019 at 10:44 am

    Why are airport construction costs so high in Mexico of all places? Labor is cheap and materials should cost less than in most places around the globe.

  3. RFNJ

    January 16, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    one of the major reasons for the high cost of the new airport was its location – an old lakebed. The saturation of the ground was very high, and the structural stability needs were great – so building runways that would not ripple when planes were landing was difficult to do. I am sure there were also a fair amount of payoffs – from what I gather, they have already named some people who were “diverting” funds from the project. To give you a sense of relative cost, the renovation of LGA in New York, which is fairly extensive – new terminals, 2 miles of new taxiways, a rail link to the subway system is projected to come in around 8 billion.

    I am not a pilot, but a fairly frequent traveller through the airport, and I agree completely about the congestion issue. The need for a new airport was legitimate. Traffic has been growing steadily, and will continue to do so. Terminal 2 at Benito Juarez was only ever intended to be a “temporary” solution. When you have to bus travelers to their planes as a regular operating procedure because your terminal does not have enough gates, its a sign that you are over capacity.

    The two alternative sites might be more cost effective, but I think “penny wise, pound foolish”. The Santa Lucia location will be easily twice the travel time into the city center, and the Toluca airport is further away than that, in the opposite direction. It is a shame that AMLO could not figure out away to appease that hardcore but small base of residents who really managed to change the course of this project.

    With any luck, there will be an opportunity for a future government to build what the city needs now and going forward.

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