SPOTLIGHT: Which LatAm airports saw most growth in 2016?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Once again, Brazil's major airports (Brasilia, São Paulo and Río de Janeiro) led the region in 2016 with 70.6mn passengers; however, this represented a 6.8% decrease compared to 2015, due to the poor state of the local economy.

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Ongoing projects include plans to build a new airport terminal in São Paulo. The project has an estimated cost of US$2bn. As of November 2016, earthworks were 99.5% complete. The project owner is CCR.


Amidst the efforts of Mauricio Macri's government to boost Argentina's economy, the country's two main airports (Mendoza and Buenos Aires) had combined traffic of 23.7mn passengers last year, up 8.9% increase, but this was also a slowdown compared to 2015, when traffic rose 10.1%.

Just recently, Macri launched a plan to add capacity for 12mn additional domestic passengers by 2019, which includes improvements to airport infrastructure.


Despite the economic slowdown, Chile's Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport in capital Santiago handled 19.1mn passengers in 2016, the second biggest increase in the region at 11.2%.

The public works ministry (MOP) is overseeing a US$700mn modernization and expansion at the airport, which is being carried out by consortium Nuevo Pudahuel.

The project entails the construction of a new 157,000m2 international passenger terminal, among other works, and will increase passenger capacity to 30mn by 2020.

Works at Santiago's new airport terminal (CREDIT: MOP)


In the midst of a hike in infrastructure spending, Colombia's main airport, the El Dorado international terminal in Bogotá, received over 31mn passengers in 2016, however, annual growth slowed to 3.62% from 9.21% in 2015.

A US$460mn modernization is currently taking place at the airport, being carried out by Colombian-Swiss consortium Opain.

The terminal building is being expanded to 239,100m2 from 173,000m2, and a brand new control tower was inaugurated in December 2015.


As with Colombia and Argentina, Mexico City's international airport saw a slowdown in traffic growth in 2016. Last year, the country's main air terminal handled 41.8mn passengers, 8.53% more than in 2015, but also below the 12.2% rise seen the previous year.

A brand new international airport is under construction in Mexico's capital. The project is expected to cost US$12.8bn and entails the construction of two passenger terminals and a rail service to connect the city to the airport.

Companies involved in the construction are Ingenieros Civiles Asociados, Calzada Construcciones, Construcciones Y Dragado, Manejo Integral de Cuencas, and Servicios de Ingeniería, Edificación y Construcción Pesada.


Unlike other countries, air traffic sped up at Panama City's Tocumen international airport, with 14.7mn passengers using the country's main terminal in 2016, up 9.42% over 2015 and well above the 5.1% rise seen in 2015.

Tocumen is also undergoing a modernization. The US$779mn initiative is expected to be finished in 2020 and entails the construction of a new 26m-tall terminal building with 80,000m2 of floor space and a new 70m control tower.

However, one of the companies involved in the project is Odebrecht, which was recently banned from participating in any future tenders in Panama due to the ongoing bribes probe in several Latin American countries.


After a 10.8% increase in passenger traffic in 2015, Costa Rica's Juan Santamaría international airport recorded the biggest traffic drop in Latin America in 2016, with an 8.16% decrease. Last year, 3.6mn passengers used the terminal.

However, this can also be attributed to a series of flight suspensions that took place in September after ashes from the Turrialba volcano made their way onto airport runways.

In late February, Aeris Holding, the operator of the airport, announced a US$100mn investment to upgrade some of the airport's facilities over the next two years.



Lima's Jorge Chávez International Airport (pictured at top) saw passenger numbers dip 1.65% last year, reaching 17.2mn.

The airport, like many others, is undergoing a renovation, which is being carried out by concessionaire Lima Airport Partners. The US$950mn project includes expanding the passenger terminal by 8,700m2, as well as building seven new boarding gates.

With this, the airport should be able to handle an average of 10mn additional passengers a year.


Montevideo's Carasco International airport reported 1.9mn passengers last year, an increase of some 13.7% compared to 2015 figures.

No major renovation plans are scheduled, but in August the airport extended use of biometric technology by introducing e-passport gates, which employ a facial recognition system, in order to reduce the time passengers spend at immigration control.