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Panama City Tocumen aims for terminal opening in January

Panama City Tocumen International airport aims to open a new terminal in January, after at least a year-long delay.

"We'll be able to inaugurate the terminal in January, with it fully operating by mid-year," says Claudio Dutary, airport operations manager for the airport, at the ALTA Airline Leaders Forum in Panama City.

Copa Airlines will be the primary tenant of the 20-gate Terminal 2 once it is fully operational. The hometown carrier will be able to reduce its use of remote positions for flights at Tocumen once the facility opens.

"It's more than 50% growth," Copa chief executive Pedro Heilbron told FlightGlobal on the additional gates in September. "That's going to give us an opportunity to leverage that new infrastructure to improve the passenger's experience of connecting through the hub of the Americas in Panama."

The carrier had expected to begin operating from the Terminal 2 by the beginning of this year, but construction delays has repeatedly pushed back the opening.

Panama City and Copa's capacity concerns will not be solved with the new terminal. Dutary says, at current growth rates, Tocumen expects to surpass its design capacity in just "another two or three years", even with Terminal 2.

Air traffic control and runway capacity being the most significant choke points for further growth, he adds. Tocumen has two parallel runways today.

The airport saw passenger numbers grow 6.1% to 15.6 million in 2017, its data shows. It forecasts growth at a compound annual rate of 5% through 2022.

Long-term plans for Tocumen call for a third runway, as well as two more terminals, says Dutary.

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