Ecuadorian airlines press for delay of new Quito Airport opening

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Airlines and local Ecuadorian politicians are lobbying to delay the opening of Quito's new international airport to the first quarter of 2013, citing access and the potential disruptions during the Christmas holiday season.

The airport is scheduled to open on 12 October, after six years of construction. It is located in the Tababela region, about 20km from central Quito.

Mayor Augusto Barrera of Quito has said that work on the six-lane E35 motorway, which will provide access to the new airport, is delayed and that the existing road network "is insufficient" to handle the expected taffic, on local TV.

"If the E35 has not been opened, the airport should not be opened," said Barrera. He acknowledged that he is "not fully informed" about the progress of the E35 "because it is a national road, built by the central government".

Ecuador's national airline TAME and logistics operator Tababela Cargo Center have also warned that the opening of the airport before the Christmas period high season for goods and passengers may create problems.

"[It] is not the best moment to ensure a smooth transition," says a senior TAME source. They suggest that a February 2013 opening would avoid the "overlapping challenges of moving operations and traffic high season". TAME, which is Ecuador's principal domestic operator, also fears that the distance of the airport from the city will make local air travel in the small Andean country less attractive as its road network is improving.

A consortium of Canadian, US and Brazilian companies, including AECON, Airport Development Corporation (ADC), HAS Development Corporation and AC-CCR, operate the Quiport concession. It includes operating the existing airport until it closes and building and operating the new facility.

Aircraft operations are limited at Quito's existing airport due to a combination of its elevation, which is more than 2,800m above sea level, 3,120m runway and approach path obstacles. For example, Iberia's flight to Madrid must stop in Guayaquil in order for the Airbus A340-200 to land at Quito.

The new airport will allow unrestricted non-stop operations to almost all destinations. It is located 2,400m above sea level - about 400m lower than the current facility - with a 4,100m runway and anbstacle free approach.