Falling traffic force Mexican airports to mothball new terminals

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Two major new terminals are being mothballed and a third terminal is being closed in Mexico as the country's airport operators struggle to cope with a steep decline in traffic.

Mexican airport group GAP planned to open a new terminal in Los Cabos in the first quarter, doubling its capacity, while airport group OMA was to open a new terminal in Monterrey this quarter, expanding annual capacity to nine million passengers. But GAP has delayed the opening of Terminal Four in Los Cabos until the first quarter of 2010 and OMA has pushed back until the second half of this year the opening of Terminal B in Monterrey. Both cite a drop in traffic in recent months driven by several Mexican carriers ceasing operations and both US and Mexican carriers slashing capacity.

"We want to be very efficient in our spending plan," says GAP investor relations officer Miguel Aliaga. He adds GAP will still complete Los Cabos' new 20,000m² (215,278ft²) terminal this quarter but will not open it until traffic recovers.

Aliaga says GAP has also taken the "creative" decision to close Guadalajara's Terminal 2, which was used by regional carriers Aeromexico Connect and ALMA, until market conditions improve. ALMA ceased operations in November and Aliaga says there is space in the main terminal for Aeromexico Connect following capacity cuts by other carriers.

OMA chief operating officer Nicolas Claude says OMA "won't close any existing facility" but is "looking at choosing a better date for the opening of the new terminal" in Monterrey after traffic dropped there the last six months of last year. Traffic across OMA's 13-airport portfolio was down 1% last year to 14.1 million, including a 14% drop in December to 1.1 million passengers.

Traffic across GAP's 12-airport portfolio plummeted 17% to 1.8 million in December and 6% to 22.3 million for 2008. Aliaga says GAP has been more affected by the downturn than other Mexican airport groups because it was heavily exposed to three of the carriers which ceased operations in the second half of last year.