By Albert Kuan
Mexico City’s New Felipe Ángeles Airport To Open Without Fixed Ground Transportation Services
One of the most speculated issues regarding Mexico City’s newest airport, Felipe Ángeles Airport (AIFA – Aeropuerto Internacional de Felipe Ángeles) is its ground connectivity with the country’s capital. This is the main challenge facing the new international airport located more than 25 miles away from the city center. Unfortunately, when the airport opens later this month on March 21, no formal public transportation services will operate to and from the new airport.
Instead, a transportation company contracted by the airport is expected to provide service to and from the airport via buses and vans. Services are expected to be provided from nine different points across Mexico City: Centro Comercial Perisur, Centro Santa Fe, Auditorio Nacional, World Trade Center, Benito Juárez Airport, Indios Verdes metro station, Ciudad Azteca metro station, Mundo E Shopping Center and Cuautilán Izcalli city.
Airport officials say fares for the services would range between 50 and 150 Mexican Pesos per trip (two to eight U.S. Dollars). Despite being a few weeks before the airport’s opening, many details on the contracted service are still unknown – neither the name of the contracted company nor the frequency and operating schedule of the services.
The airport will eventually be served by a commuter rail service (Tren Suburbano) and bus rapid transit (Mexibús), however, despite the speedy progress towards the airport’s completion, these ground transportation projects won’t be up and running in time for opening day. Both projects are scheduled to begin operations in 2023, a year after opening.
The new international airport was expected to be served by Mexibús service upon opening, but upon investigation by local journalists last month, the bus rapid transit system’s stations were found to be still under construction. The government of the State of Mexico, the operator of Mexibús, originally promised to deliver a service connecting the airport to Ciudad Azteca metro station, a few miles north of Mexico City’s city center, in time for the airport’s inaugural flight.
Construction work on the intercity highway where Mexibús would operate the service has seen little progress, and furthermore, existing stations on the Mexibús network were found to be lacking security and in states of disrepair. Journalists also found existing fixed routes in the bus network to be overcrowded with unreliable headways.
Even popular rideshare services in Mexico such as Uber and Didi won’t be able to provide services to travelers. Rideshare services have been banned from picking up travelers from Felipe Ángeles Airport, although dropping off is permitted. This is because, as with most Mexican airports, the grounds of the new airport is deemed federal property.
Transportation services require a government permit in order to operate on federal property, although many travelers often find workarounds to walk off airport grounds. This would be nearly impossible for travelers at Felipe Ángeles Airport as getting outside this zone requires miles of walking.
Felipe Ángeles Airport will be the second airport to serve Mexico City, along with the more centrally located Benito Juárez Airport (commonly referred to as Mexico City International Airport, or AICM – Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México). The new airport, which will have a total cost of 3.5 billion U.S. Dollars, is planned to relieve congestion at Benito Juárez Airport.
Mexico’s three largest carriers, Aeromexico, VivaAerobus and Volaris, will be the only carriers to operate scheduled flights from the new airport on opening day March 21. Mexico’s flag carrier Aeromexico will launch service to Mérida and Villahermosa from the new airport, while low-cost carrier Vivaaerobus has scheduled two flights to Guadalajara and Monterrey, and low-cost Volaris will operate service to Tijuana and Cancún. All flights announced to date are domestic within Mexico.
Despite persuasion from the Mexican government, a number of foreign carriers have confirmed Felipe Ángeles Airport is not in their expansion plans in the immediate future. Many airlines cited its lack of structure and feasibility, with ground connectivity being one of the main concerns. American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa have confirmed they would continue to serve their markets operating out of Benito Juárez Airport.
The only airline scheduled to operate international service from the airport thus far is Conviasa. The Venezuelan airline begins flying to Caracas in May 2022.
The Mexican government declared this past Friday, a few weeks before the opening of Felipe Ángeles Aiport, a new cap would be imposed on flight numbers at Benito Juárez Airport due to both its terminals reaching overcapacity, When the flight cap will be implemented is still not certain.
Such a move would send a message to airlines that they will have to move operations to Felipe Ángeles Aiport in order to continue growing in the greater Mexico City market. The airport authority has also been instructed to revise landing and take-off schedules to guarantee its optimal operation
VivaAerobus’ Chief Executive Officer, Juan Carlos Zuazua, whose airline was one of the first to announce operations at Felipe Angeles airport, highlighted a few months ago that the airport would be a success as long as it has convenient and cheap ground transportation to the city center. Zuazua explained the airport needs to be very well connected with Mexico City’s subway in order to ensure passengers can get in and out of the airport very easily.
The Tren Suburbano, one of the transportation projects that will bring more travelers to Felipe Ángeles Airport, will provide a direct rail connection with Buenavista Train Station in the city center once it opens in 2023. The trip is expected to take less than 45 minutes and cost 50 Mexican Pesos (approximately 3 U.S. dollars).