From 2-4 December executives from airlines, airports, tourism and government bodies will gather in Monterrey, Mexico for the inaugural Network Latin America route-planning event

When Airline Business brings its first Network Latin America event to Monterrey, Mexico in December, it will bring Network's unique blend of airline and airport meetings and relationship-building to a destination rich in resources and culture.

The second largest metropolitan area in Mexico after the capital, Monterrey is sometimes dubbed the country's richest city for its high GDP per capita and its reputation as one of the most secure cities in Mexico. With more than 3.9 million people, Monterrey may be one of the biggest and best-kept secrets in a nation where resorts like Cancun and Acapulco grab the headlines.

But Rubén Lopez (pictured), the chief executive of OMA, the private company that operates the main Monterrey airport as well as 12 other airports in northern Mexico, is working hard to make Monterrey better known to the airlines of the world. With its mix of high-value business traffic, its strong economy and growing leisure business, "Monterrey should become the primary hub airport for northern Mexico", he says.

Lopez is particularly proud of a non-stop route between Monterrey and Madrid operated by Aeromexico. Other Mexican airports eagerly pursue non-stop services to Europe and above all to Spain, which remains one of the country's most important trading and cultural partners. Lopez also points to another new route from Monterrey, a Mexicana-operated service to Los Angeles, which helped increase Monterrey's traffic by 26% in March, year-on-year.

The nation's booming low-fares sector is also well represented at Monterrey. For example, vivaAeroBus, the low-fares start up partially backed by Ryanair founder Tony Ryan, is based at Monterrey. The vivaAeroBus network grew to 14 cities in March, and as it adds aircraft it will have some 25 routes by year-end. Fellow low-fare players Interjet and Volaris serve the airport, as does charter carrier Aladia, with its route to Cancun.

The operations of these carriers contribute to the airport's monthly throughput of over 550,000 passengers, says Lopez.

Monterrey is well-positioned to become a gateway for Mexican air travel because it is emerging as a competing choice to such US hubs as Houston or Dallas/Fort Worth, but one that can offer a less troublesome time of changing flights and clearing customs. And much of the service between Monterrey and US hubs, including Atlanta Hartsfield/Jackson, is on regional jets, which some travellers dislike and which have less luggage capacity.

Construction time

OMA is building for growth at Monterrey, beginning construction on a terminal with an annual capacity of 1.5 million passengers, which should be ready for operations in the second half of 2008.

Monterrey, which is just 220km (135 miles) from the Texas border and about 645km from Houston, became wealthy in part because of its proximity to the markets of the north.

Monterrey still has heavy industry including steel, cement and chemicals, but also hosts telecommunications and hi-tech companies. And it is home to major breweries that produce such well-known beers as Carta Blanca, Sol and Tecate.

Brewing beer may be appropriate to Monterrey's reputation as one of the major centres of higher education in Mexico, with several universities including a highly respected technology institute. And despite its industrial base, Monterrey is also known as the home to some of the nation's wealthiest families. Fortune magazine once said Monterrey had more millionaires than any other city in Mexico.


Source: Airline Business