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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Here is why moving the Mérida airport farther away seems unlikely

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People in Yucatán are extremely skeptical about plans for a new airport in Umán, and with good reason. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The idea of building a new airport to serve Mérida has been around for a long time

Most media outlets are reporting as a fact that the new airport will be built in Umán, but there are reasons to doubt the project will actually happen. 

The project is apparently unpopular with people in Mérida, in part because the new airport would be less convenient to reach, further from city limits.

Though no scientific polls regarding the popularity of the new airport project have been carried out, online comments supporting its construction are virtually impossible to find. 

“The whole situation reeks of corruption. Nobody wants this airport but it’s being shoved down our throats anyway,” said Mérida resident Emmanuel Gallardo, commenting on Facebook.

Mérida’s existing airport is four miles from downtown. On the other hand, the site of the new airport is 22 miles south in a remote area of Umán called Poxilá, where an investor allegedly holds large swaths of land, according to Diario de Yucatán.

The new airport in Poxilá will be well outside of Mérida’s city limits. Photo: Courtesy Google Earth

The community of Poxilá is also the hometown of José Antonio Loret de Mola Gómory, one of Yucatán’s most prominent businessmen and developers.

As it happens, Loret de Mola Gómory owns a good deal of property and developments in the area and is heavily invested in the construction of the new airport, according to Diario de Yucatán

The new airport is reported to come with a price tag of 10 billion pesos, roughly US$500 million.

As is also the case with the construction of Yucatán’s controversial “Estadio Sustentable,” work at the new airport has not even officially begun. 

Construction work on Mexico’s most technologically advanced sports complex is yet to even start, making Its original 2023 completion date nearly impossible. Photo: Courtesy

“You can’t just build an airport. Aside from the money, there are countless processes and permits you need to get in order first — as well as many palms to grease, if you catch my drift,” said an anonymous source involved with Mexico’s aviation industry.

Also working against the new airport is the fact that Mérida’s existing Manuel Crescencio Rejón airport is more than able to meet growing demand.  

During this past quarter, Mérida’s international airport registered nearly a quarter of a million passengers in a single month, an all-time record.

This summer has been particularly busy for Mérida’s Manuel Crescencio Rejón airport. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“By the time we finish our expansion project in six months, we will have almost doubled our yearly passenger capacity from 2.5 million to 4.7,” said Mérida’s airport administrator, Oscar Felipe Carrillo Maldonado, during an interview with Yucatán Magazine.

As part of the renovations, Mérida’s airport is enlarging its customs and immigration center, a sign that more international flights are in the works. 

Currently, Mérida’s airport operates direct international flights to Dallas, Houston, Miami, Toronto, Havana, and Guatemala City.

A new flight to Flores, Guatemala, near the archaeological site of Tikal is expected to make its maiden flight in a matter of days on Aug. 8

Located on an island on lake Peten Itzá. Flores is northern Guatemala’s main tourist hub. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Domestic flights include destinations including Mexico City, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Guadalajara and Villahermosa.

Recently announced new domestic routes include direct flights to Toluca, Puerto Vallarta, and Léon, Guanajuato — which is near the expat mecca of San Miguel de Allende.

San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico’s central highlands, is 90 minutes from two airports. Photo: Getty

“We have really seen an explosion in demand, so we are adding additional flights to make sure our passengers get to where they need to go,” according to a press statement from Viva Aerobus.

Delays in the construction of the new airport may also be political. Yucatán Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal is said to be eying a presidential nomination for the 2024 general election. 

“The last thing any would-be candidates want at this point is to be involved in any kind of scandal. Two years may sound like a lot of time, but things are already in motion,” said a journalist and political scientist, Denise Dresser.

Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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