Cancun opens second runway as traffic grows 30% in two years; US routes lead way

Cancun’s new second runway had 2,000 runners take part in a race as part of the inauguration ceremony last weekend and on 20th October the Mexican presidential jet will finalise the celebrations by landing on the runway

Mexico’s second busiest airport has just unveiled a second parallel runway and a new 97-metre control tower to help it cope with the anticipated future growth of in-bound (mostly US) tourists to what continues to be the leading location for international tourists in Latin America. ASUR-owned Cancun airport reported double-digit growth in both 2007 and 2008 resulting in a total of 12.6 million passengers passing through the airport last year.

Around three-quarters of annual passengers are on international flights with the remainder on domestic routes, mostly to and from Mexico City.

Chart: Cancun passengers 99-08
Source: ASUR

A third terminal was opened as recently as 2007. The drop in passenger numbers in 2005 may be associated with Hurricane Wilma which passed through the area in late October of that year. Tropical storms are possible between May and December but rainfall is typically heaviest in September and October which corresponds with the period when passenger numbers are lowest at the airport.

Chart: CUN Seasonality
Source: ASUR

In 2009 the swine flu outbreak in May resulted in traffic dropping by 55% that month and 32% in June. Since then traffic levels have recovered and in September were just 8.5% below last September’s levels.

US has eight of top 12 routes

With its focus on international inbound tourism it will come as no surprise that eight of the top 12 busiest routes in 2008 were to US destinations, although none came remotely close to challenging Mexico City as the leading route. The Mexican capital is currently served by AeroMexico, Interjet and Mexicana. Apart from Mexico City only Monterrey and Toluca among domestic airports make it into the top 12.

Chart: Top 12 Routes
Source: DGAC Mexico

Among European destinations Madrid leads the way with flights provided by Air Europa, Iberia and Pullmantur. According to the airport the top three airlines at the airport last year were Mexicana (1.26 million passengers), American (1.04 million) and Continental (0.84 million).

More routes from US LCCs

During the last year AirTran has begun non-stop flights from Atlanta and Baltimore / Washington, while jetBlue has added flights to Fort Lauderdale, proving competition for Spirit Air who already operated the route.

On domestic routes Interjet has replaced Aviacsa on Mexico City, while MexicanaLink has added flights to Merida, Puebla and Veracruz. Services to Campeche and Villahermosa, which used to be operated by now defunct Alma, no longer exist.

Mayair logoA new carrier MAYAir has started operating six daily scheduled flights between Cancun and Cozumel, two airports which are just 60 kilometres apart. Starting in February 2009 the airline operates 36-seat Shorts 360 aircraft on the route which has a scheduled flight time of just 25 minutes and operates as a shuttle with departures every two hours.

TACA (operated by LACSA) will begin a new thrice-weekly service from Sal Salvador from 15 November (using an A320) while various Canadian carriers will be adding weekly services over the peak winter period.


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