EconomyFinancial#Chronicle: What is it like to fly at AIFA...

#Chronicle: What is it like to fly at AIFA six months after its opening?

A little more than half a year after its inauguration, the arrival of passengers and the presence of open businesses generate a feeling of greater dynamism within the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA), unlike the last days of March, when only three airlines flew to six destinations, which meant a cautious start for the biggest airport bet of the current administration.

AIFA’s first day of operations was an exceptional case. The inauguration led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had its own call for what had been announced as the largest infrastructure work of the six-year term to date, which was attended by businessmen and officials who had been for and against the project. –specifically when comparing it with the NAIM– , in addition to several curious people who wanted to know what it would be like to go to the airport due to its distance and its facilities.

This curiosity fueled part of the influx of some passengers in the first days of operations, while the start of operations of new airlines, such as the Dominican, Arajet, are beginning to shape a project that has not yet finished taking off.

Arrival at AIFA

Beyond initial curiosity, passengers currently choosing to fly from AIFA do so out of logistical convenience. Getting there from Ecatepec, in the State of Mexico, takes half an hour, a saving of 15 minutes compared to Mexico City International Airport (AICM) . However, from a location south of the city, for example, it would take between 20 and 25 minutes to get to the AICM, and between 45 minutes and an hour to get to the Felipe Ángeles.

Arriving by Uber from Ecatepec costs 250 pesos. The driver can enter the AIFA to drop off passengers, but not to pick them up. That can be an inhibitor for drivers, as they risk returning empty.

Traffic is not a problem, since the communication routes were practically decongested, or at least that was the case on a Thursday afternoon. However, a few weeks earlier, some people were stranded on the Circuito Exterior Mexiquense due to a demonstration. Something that also often happens with the AICM on the Internal Circuit, where even the police put desperate travelers on their patrol cars so that they can catch their flight.

The dimensions of the place never cease to amaze; Surrounding the construction site takes about half an hour by car, and on foot you can’t see the horizon where it ends.

The wide access roads still retain the light grayish color characteristic of a recently built access. The passenger is greeted with a view of the Mammoth Museum , but also of the military installations that are inside the estate, which, despite also incorporating two hotels – a Holiday Inn that will open in December, and another military one – a base military airfield and even a military hospital , it looks extremely extensive.

In the AIFA it is clear that the armed forces are the ones in charge . In the inspection at the security filters, the National Guard is the one who removes the bottle of water forgotten in the bag from the passengers. The corridors and the arrival and departure bays are also guarded by the military, and even when collecting the luggage, the seal of the “Santa Lucía” Engineering Group is seen in large letters, with the slogan in capital letters: “We will fulfill the mission”.

commercial spaces

Inside, The Grand Lounge Elite VIP Lounge looks packed. And for those who don’t have any membership, the alternative is a Starbucks – which is also usually relatively full – or a Krispy Kreme , with a smaller crowd.

The AIFA has 205 commercial spaces , of which until a few weeks ago, there were 92 leased and 36 in operation. Among the establishments before the security checkpoints there are some cafeterias and Kiko’s pastry shops –reminiscent of the AIFA’s proximity to Hidalgo–, while inside there are several Duty Free , sporting goods and souvenir shops, and a food space that it has small fast food outlets, some in operation and others under construction, such as a branch of Fogoncito restaurant. In addition, inside there are eight ATMs from banks such as BBVA and Citibanamex .

At 2 p.m. that Thursday, the AIFA departure screen had a record of 13 flights, 12 on time and one delay. Despite this, the size of the airport makes it look empty, which, at the same time, makes waiting comfortable, since there are from regular seats to some lounge-style seats overlooking the runways, and even workspaces to connect computers and cell phones.

The boarding areas have a biometric data reading system –similar to that of European airports, where you do not have to show any documentation past the security filter to speed up boarding–, but these are not yet in operation .

Land at the AIFA

Upon landing at AIFA, the size of the complex is once again surprising. “I imagined it smaller, like the one in La Paz,” some passengers are heard saying. During the night the Control Tower is illuminated in a red color, which shines between the runways and other signs.

At disembarkation, the baggage claim is fluid, since it is the only flight that arrived at that time. In that area are the famous wrestler-themed bathrooms – the only ones where passengers can be seen taking a selfie –, while others are located at the top, with a movie theme.

Elements of the National Guard give indications on the way to follow, because, although it may not seem like it, it can be easy to get lost in the long corridors.

At the exit, it is important to consider that Uber drivers cannot enter the AIFA to pick up passengers, only to drop them off. For this reason, the only way to get out is by taking a taxi from one of the three companies that have the concession to provide service at the airport, at a cost of 300 pesos, the cheapest compared to others that charged 350 pesos, for a journey. of about half an hour.

According to the driver, the flow continues to be low, and sometimes each driver only has two trips a day. However, they are bound by company policy to provide 24-hour service, even when there are no flights at night.

Flying from Felipe Ángeles Airport can still be challenging without public transportation, since the Mexibus –the only one that arrives at the AIFA, in addition to buses from some hubs in the State of Mexico and Mexico City– is an impractical alternative. However, the Suburban Train – which will tentatively open in December 2023 – has the potential to facilitate access.

Although the AIFA is not usually the first option to fly from Mexico City, from some places in the State of Mexico and even from Hidalgo it is a functional alternative. However, from there to the fact that it constitutes an option to relieve the saturation of the Mexico City Airport – for which it was built from the political message – it seems that there is still a big gap.

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