ROUTES: Toluca gears up for passenger growth

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Mexico's Toluca International airport is gearing up for a surge in passenger traffic in the years ahead, as it takes advantage of congestion at Mexico City Benito Juarez International.

Known for being Mexico City's alternate airport catering to low-cost carriers, Toluca expects passenger traffic to more than double to five million passengers in 2015, says the airport's chief exeuctive Javier Garcia Bejos. The airport handled one million passengers in 2012 and expects to handle two million passengers this year.

While the airport can now handle six million passengers a year, it is improving its facilities to grow the capacity further. The airport is in the process of converting 10 of its 17 gates to jetway bridges, which will grow capacity to eight million passengers annually, Bejos explains. The remaining seven will remain remote gates. The airport operator is spending $35 million on the new jetway bridges which will be ready in the summer of 2015, he says.

In addition, Toluca airport will add new retail areas and a new aircraft apron.

In recent years, Mexican carriers have grown steadily at Toluca, especially as Mexico City International airport becomes more congested. Toluca also has a strong partner in low-cost carrier Interjet, which is based there. Mexican flag carrier Aeromexico operates to four destinations out of Toluca, but Bejos says the airport expects the airline to announce an additional eight by end-2013. Among these are potential new routes to California and Miami in Florida, he says.

Mexican authorities have indicated they would build a third airport to serve the country's capital, but Bejos says Toluca will still be in closer proximity to the city centre. He adds that there are plans to open rail links to Toluca, which would make the airport more accessible. Passengers driving to Toluca airport from downtown Mexico City could take an hour or more.

Mexico City International airport has capacity to handle 32 million passengers annually. Statistics from the airport show it handled 29.5 million passengers in 2012, up 11.8% from 2011.