Home Airports Mexico To Force Flights Into Their New, Hot Mess Of An Airport

Mexico To Force Flights Into Their New, Hot Mess Of An Airport

by SharonKurheg

Several weeks ago, we wrote about a newly opened airport outside Mexico City that, from all accounts, sounded like a dumpster fire. You can read everything that’s wrong with it (and there’s a lot) in this post.

Felipe Ángeles International Airport (NLU) was built on the grounds of the Santa Lucia Military Airbase (the airbase essentially turned into a mixed-use civilian/military airport). Built by the army, it was supposed to take some of the congestion away from Mexico City’s Benito Juarez Airport (MEX). Unfortunately, besides the physical problems we wrote about in late March, apparently, some much worse, safety-related problems have also come to light.

Safety incidents that included warnings of aircraft being in danger of flying into the ground were recently reported by the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), an international not-for-profit organization of national pilots’ associations.

You see, when the new airport opened, it led to a reconfiguration of the airspace within the city. This would typically require all air traffic controllers (ATC) in the area to undergo extensive training regarding new flight patterns. However according to an IFALPA safety bulletin dated May 4th,

it would appear that with the opening of this newly converted airport, ATC has apparently received little training and support as to how to operate this new configuration in the airspace.

In the past month, several incidents have occurred where aircraft arriving at MEX had low fuel states due to unplanned holding, diversions due to long delays, and Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) alerts, signaling that one flight “…almost had a Controlled Flight into Terrain.” (CFIT).

The release also mentions that some crews receive clearances that don’t adhere to the height restrictions set out in the charts. Proper phraseology is also not being used, which adds to the confusion.

You can read the entire IFALPA safety bulletin here, as a PDF.

Anyway, going back to Felipe Ángeles International Airport for a moment, according to Reuters, as of mid-April, NLU, although open for nearly a month, was still under construction.

Chain-link fences covered with green tarps lined the entrance to the airport, and dust painted the sky a reddish hue as construction crews continued excavation.

The new highway to connect the airport with the rest of the city, about 28 miles north-northeast of the center of Mexico City, is still not complete. The train connection won’t be available until next year. Ridesharing and taxi service still aren’t allowed. Inside the airport, there’s a Krispy Kreme, a pastry shop, a Mexican-themed gift store, and many empty storefronts that say “Opening Soon.” That’s it.

So since ATC at MEX is having so many problems, what’s the government going to do?  Force airlines to use the new airport, of course. You know…the airport that still isn’t really finished.

Transportation and Infrastructure Secretary Rogelio Jimenez Pons recently told local media that the government has decided to reduce the number of flights allowed to land at the old airport by nearly 25%.

According to The Washington Post, Pons said that airlines would be given a choice to go to the Felipe Angeles terminal or an even more distant, generally unused airport in the neighboring city of Toluca, to the west.

Said Pons (via Simple Flying):

“Right now, we are making calculations; we will begin (by reducing) cargo and charter flights, as well as new carriers and additional flights (…). Then we will move with all the other airlines. We must see how many flights can be redirected somewhere else, particularly to NLU, because it is ready, but the flights can also be redirected to Toluca.”

The government had already established any new flights scheduled to fly into Mexico City would have to use Felipe Angeles. However, the upcoming changes, of being forced to fly into NLU instead of MEX, would apply to already-existing routes.

Right now NLU only has about 6 flights per day. So they’ll be adding multiple flights per day – full planeloads of people per day – to an airport with little infrastructure, few roads to/from, no ride-sharing, no taxi service, and limited shuttle service.

I’m sure that will end well.

Pons said they will look at options.

The Mexican government…is analyzing granting fuel discounts. We do not want to do anything forced, but we do want it to be understood that there are serious conditions that must be addressed…

Before and during the time that NLU was opening, several airlines, including American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and Qatar Airways had said they had no plans to fly into the fledgling airport. Delta had said in mid-March that they were analyzing the possibility.

To date, no specific airlines or flights were named as any of the ones to be “forced” to fly into NLU.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

CHRIS May 6, 2022 - 5:48 pm

Anything less would be disappointing. Happy Cinco de Mayo!


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