TAKES TWO TO TANGO

Panama 2018 | LOGISTICS & MARITIME | FOCUS: NEW TERMINAL

Already known for its canal, Panama is looking to establish its dominance in the air transport space as well, expanding Tocumen International Airport.

In 2018, Tocumen International Airport celebrates its 71st anniversary, and it will close the year with the commencement of the expansion project to build a new terminal—Terminal 2 (T2), one of the most important works in terms of airport infrastructure and modernization currently being carried out in Panama.

Tocumen International Airport, the main airport in Panama, will be joined with the new terminal through a 170-m connecting building that, once completed, will allow millions of passengers to transit freely between both terminals. In large part thanks to T2, Tocumen estimates that it will serve 25 million people in 2025, up from 14.7 million passengers in 2016.

The building, with a total investment of USD878 million and with a height of 12m, will have mobile sidewalks for the quick passage of users, as well as administrative offices and retail areas. T2 will serve aircrafts with 20 boarding gates, eight remote positions, taxiways, parking platform and aircraft circulation, adding an area of approximately 250,000sqm.

More than 7,200 suitcases per hour will be transported between both terminals through the new baggage handling system consisting of conveyor belts and high-speed trays that will be installed in T2. In addition to linking passengers, the connector building will also help transport baggage to and from the two terminals, translating into efficiency for airlines and less waiting time for passengers. With this work, Tocumen International Airport plans to gain greater reliability among airlines, placing the country at the forefront and leading in Latin America in terms of airports and connectivity.

Construction companies Odebrecht and Meco received payments of USD25.9 million and USD12 million, respectively, for works they are carrying out for the Tocumen Airport expansion project. Both amounts were included in a transfer of items totaling USD89.3 million that was approved by the National Assembly Budget Committee. However, for several reasons, T2 will not open with a migration and customs area. Airport management acknowledges that not having the immigration and customs area will be more hassle for the passengers, but the added benefits of the new terminal outweigh this burden. This is because, previously, it was more cumbersome for people to use the remote stations where they must travel in buses to get off or get on the planes. T2 will lessen the need to use remote positions.

With 90% completed as of March 31, 2018, the works are expected to be completed in December of this year. Though there were workers' strikes and delays due to accusations of corruption, opening is on track for the end of 2018. The planned opening will be just in time for the arrival of thousands of pilgrims traveling to Panama for World Youth Day in January 2019. Copa Airlines, the country's flagship air carrier, is busy preparing to move to the new terminal when it is completed. They anticipate full operations to begin in mid-2019. Already adding more flight routes, Copa Airlines is making its own contributions to the aviation industry, which will only be enhanced with the T2. Overall, the airport serves 84 destinations in 35 countries and has a strategic positioning for transit traffic between the Americas.

The aviation industry represents 14.8% of Panama's GDP and generates 260,000 jobs, including both direct and indirect and representing the highest percentage contribution of aviation in the Americas. Due to its commitment to high standards of service and quality, Tocumen International Airport received the award—for the sixth-consecutive year—as the Best of Central America and Best Human Team by the British firm Skytrax Research in 2018. The new terminal can elevate Tocumen International Airport even higher, solidifying the airport's positioning as the hub of the Latin America and taking Panama's aviation industry to the skies.