ROUTES: El Salvador airport details expansion plan

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El Salvador International airport will go through several expansion phases in the next few years to eventually be able to handle 6.6 million passengers annually in 2032.

The total investment in all the phases is worth $624 million.

The airport, operated by state-owned authority CEPA, aims to finish its first expansion phase in May. This will add 14 new gates to the airport, says CEPA's president Alberto Arene at Routes Americas in San Salvador. There are 17 gates at the airport currently.

The first phase also includes repaving of the runway, taxiways and other improvements to the passenger terminal.

In the second phase, which will take place this year and in 2015, the airport's cargo terminal will be modernised.

Beyond 2015, US engineering firm Kimley-Horn has presented a master plan to develop the airport further, with support from the US Trade and Development Agency.

This plan will be implemented in four phases through 2032, says Arene. The first phase of this will begin in 2015 and end in 2017, boosting the airport's capacity to 3.5 million passengers a year from 1.6 million currently.

"With the master plan executtion, El Salvador International airport will become a regional leader as a hub for commercial aviation and airplane maintenance services," says Arene.

Avianca has chosen to base its Central American hub in El Salvador, dismantling subsidiary Taca's hub in San Jose, Costa Rica.