TBY talks to Ángel Córdova Carrera, General Manager of TAGSA, on running José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport, Guayaquil as an air hub, and the new airport in Quito.
TBY What has TAGSA brought to José Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport?
ÁNGEL CÓRDOVA CARRERA On August 1, 2004, TAGSA began the operation and management of Guayaquil Airport, which at that time was named Simon Bolívar International Airport. In July 2006, we completed its new facilities and initiated operations in the new 50,000-sqm national and international terminals that, prior to the opening, was renamed José Joaquín de Olmedo, an important historical figure for Guayaquil. The new facilities allowed us to offer higher quality and better customer services. Since then, we have won several international awards, including a distinction from the Airports Council International (ACI), ranking us as one of the top airports in Latin America and in the world.
What makes José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport competitive?
When we took over the airport in 2004 it was handling approximately 2.3 million passengers per year; we ended 2011 with around 3.9 million passengers, although this increase is not associated only with the airport, which is one of the main gateways to the country. It is also because the city council and the mayor have made efforts to encourage the flow of more international and domestic passengers to the city. Guayaquil is now being recognized as a tourist destination. We do our work to serve our customers with safety, security, and quality while respecting the environment and considering the local community in terms of social responsibility.
How extensive have upgrades to the cargo terminal been?
The cost of the project was $4.7 million, financed by private investment, and it has completely transformed the existing terminal. The cargo terminal, according to the law, is under the control of the customs authorities and handles import cargo. The cargo went from a 6,000-sqm facility to a modern 14,000-sqm facility with a supporting structure building of 3,000-sqm next to it. We also built an 800-sqm office facility for the customs authorities to run import operations as smoothly as possible. We work closely with the authorities and private companies, allowing them to perform their activities and duties as well as possible. We also recently opened a new 48,000-sqm concrete platform for cargo planes, with a further investment of approximately $5 million; it provides easier access and allows the entry of larger aircraft, such as the Boeing 747-800.
How is the opening of the new airport in Quito going to impact Guayaquil’s facilities?
The airports of Quito and Guayaquil are complementary because both provide services in the same country, but serve different markets and customers. Air transportation is a business, and business takes place where there is a market for it. As long as there is a market in Guayaquil, people will continue flying here, and the same is true for Quito. It is a mistake to assume that because the airport at Guayaquil is at sea level all airplanes have to go through it only to refuel, and it is also incorrect to assume that because the airport in Quito will have a longer runway and airplanes can take off from it with more weight capacity, the airlines will fly directly from Quito to Europe or other destinations and they will not fly to Guayaquil anymore. Everybody has to understand that the markets are different. For example, a passenger in Quito does not necessarily come to Guayaquil to travel to the US or Europe, and someone who lives in Guayaquil is not going to go to Quito to fly to Europe just because the runway is longer. It is the passenger who decides where to fly, but it is the airlines that decide the route to fly based on commercial issues. For example, at the moment, two different companies that fly from Guayaquil to Europe use different routes. Therefore, there is no technical grounding to say that the construction of the new airport in Quito will affect Guayaquil’s international flights. An issue we would face is a drop in passengers in domestic flights between Quito and Guayaquil, because of the location of the new Quito airport. We believe this could cause a decrease of 15% to 20% in passengers. This will not be a cause of a lot of concern, since national airlines landing in Guayaquil pay approximately one-sixth of the amount international airlines pay to land and for other services, giving domestic operators a huge advantage.
© The Business Year