TULUM, Mexico – Located approximately 10 kilometers southwest of the Tulum municipality, the Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport is set to be inaugurated today, Friday, December 1, marking a significant milestone in enhancing connectivity in the region.
The construction, initiated in June 2022, aims to strengthen Quintana Roo’s tourism position, fostering economic and urban opportunities. Officially named the Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport, the terminal spans 10.5 kilometers along Federal Highway 307.
The Tulum Airport’s opening is designed to integrate with key transportation hubs in the region, particularly the Tren Maya. Managed by the Olmeca Maya Mexica Airport, Rail, Auxiliary, and Related Services Group (GAFSACOMM), it emphasizes its role in accessing the Riviera Maya.
During a press conference, Óscar David Lozano Águila, the CEO of Tren Maya, highlighted the significance of the Cancun, Chetumal, and Tulum airports in providing seamless connectivity to the Tren Maya from passenger terminals.
This project, also known as the Tulum Airport, is poised to become the primary gateway to the Riviera Maya, offering both regional and international connectivity. The scheduled inauguration on December 1 promises to boost the local economy, attracting investment and creating jobs in the area.
The Tulum Airport boasts unique multimodal services in the region, including a military airbase for local security. Several airlines, both national and international, have already announced their operations at this new aerodrome.
Among the airlines operating at the Tulum Airport are Aeroméxico, Viva Aerobus, Spirit Airlines, and American Airlines, connecting destinations such as Tijuana, Guadalajara, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Mexico City, Monterrey, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and more.
Will it siphon passengers from Cancun?
The newly inaugurated Tulum Airport, set to open this Friday by President López Obrador, could potentially divert up to half of the passengers received by Cancun, the country’s second most important terminal. From January to September, Cancun International Airport welcomed 12.1 million passengers, as reported by Datatur. In this context, the new Tulum terminal could see more than four million passengers, according to estimates by industry analyst Fernando Gómez Suárez.
In its initial phase, the terminal will have the capacity to accommodate 5.5 million tourists annually, according to data from the federal government.
The analyst suggests that Tulum has more potential at its outset than the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA), which has barely surpassed two million passengers this year, according to the Federal Civil Aviation Agency (AFAC). As of this Friday, airlines like Aeroméxico and Viva Aerobus have confirmed operations at the new Caribbean terminal.
Aeroméxico informed El Sol de México that it will have two daily frequencies from Mexico City’s International Airport starting Saturday. Viva Aerobus, on the other hand, will have routes to Tulum from AIFA, Mexico City’s International Airport, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Tijuana, as announced in August.
International airlines also plan to fly to this Mayan destination, such as Delta Airlines, which will have a direct flight from Atlanta starting in March.
“It will reduce passengers to Cancun. Since it was concessioned to the Southeast Airport Group (Asur), half of the passengers arriving at that terminal don’t go to Cancun; they travel to the Riviera Maya and Tulum,” commented Gómez Suárez. An analysis by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) points out that the Tulum Airport appears to be a gateway to the Quintana Roo tourism market, anticipating global consolidation due to saturation issues at Cancun’s terminal and the limited capacity of Cozumel and Chetumal.
Investments and Features
To make this site a reality, public resources totaling 16,331 million 867 thousand 486 pesos were invested since 2021, with over 3.1 billion pesos allocated this year.
Key facilities include a central runway measuring 3,700 meters, 13 contact positions for commercial flights and taxiways, an air traffic control tower, and a terminal building, among others.
The estimated mobilization is expected to account for 32 thousand air operations with 5.5 million passengers during the first year of operation.
One noteworthy feature of the new airport is its Category 4 ECO classification, allowing all aircraft landing on Mexican soil to take off. It includes reserved areas for general and executive aviation.
Additionally, it features a Category 1 instrument landing system and high-tech navigation to ensure efficient and safe operations, even in adverse weather conditions.
Another significant connectivity aspect is its link to the Tren Maya through the Airport-Tulum station, located 7.5 kilometers away. Accessible by vehicle and a Mayan trail, the journey takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Confirmed operations at the airport include three national airlines from five domestic destinations: Aeroméxico (from Mexico City), Mexicana de Aviación (from the capital and AIFA), and Viva Aerobús (from Mexico City, AIFA, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana).
For foreign destinations, ten routes from the United States are confirmed, involving four airlines: United Airlines from Chicago, O’Hare, Houston, and Newark (from March 23 next year), and a seasonal route from Los Angeles (from May 23). Other international airlines such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Spirit Airlines are also set to operate from various U.S. cities.
The construction of the Tulum International Airport utilized 1,519 hectares of land, with 1,200 hectares acquired from ejidatarios for 482.6 million pesos.
The reported airport infrastructure includes 70,000 square meters of construction and over 1,400 square meters of commercial spaces.
Another 319 hectares were used to enable a two-lane access roadway separated by a central median, covering 12.7 kilometers until connecting with Federal Highway 307 Cancun-Chetumal.
The airport is located approximately 80 kilometers from the municipal seat of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, about 40 kilometers from the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, and nearly 20 kilometers from Tulum.
Its strategic position places it within 200 kilometers of Quintana Roo’s major cities, including Cancun, Bacalar, and the capital Chetumal.
Through a collaboration agreement, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) was responsible for developing and presenting the Unified Technical Document studies for the Construction Project, along with Social Matters.
Seven private companies and an individual were tasked with the initial studies, economic feasibility, and financial evaluation of pre-investment studies. This included support in the Master Plan development, topographic and geothermal studies, and wildlife management before changing the land use of forested areas.
The Development Access Plan and the Airport Market Study, which were part of the 2021 Public Account Superior Audit Report, did not reveal financial irregularities, according to the federal audit body.
AMLO declares it an International Airport
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has declared the Tulum airport an international terminal through a decree signed and published in the Official Gazette of the Federation.
This airport will receive public and private flights from other countries. The decree states, “It is declared and enabled as an international aerodrome for the entry and exit to the country of Mexican and foreign aircraft, both from public air service and third-party air services and operations of aircraft for private use, national and international transportation, regular and irregular, to the aerodrome called Tulum International Airport ‘Felipe Carrillo Puerto…'” The decree also mentions that the authorities are authorized to inspect and monitor the arrival and departure of passengers, luggage, goods, and mail from the aircraft.
The document registers that the terminal has “a commercial aviation runway with a length of 3,700 meters by 45 meters wide, parallel taxiway, transverse streets, and high-speed exits by national and international regulations, built with high-strength hydraulic concrete, a terminal building, control tower, hangars, complimentary airport services, and a multimodal transport network that will ensure efficient and safe connectivity and mobility,” as reported by Sipse.
As reported by The Tulum Times, everything is set for the grand opening of the Tulum International Airport today, where it will receive its first passengers at noon, inaugurated by AMLO, along with Quintana Roo’s governor, Mara Lezama, state mayors, and numerous invited dignitaries.