Over the past five years, airports across Peru experienced significant growth in cargo and passenger flows that are now pushing airport facilities beyond their anticipated operating capacities. According to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (Dirección General de Aviación Civil, DGAC), between 2011 and 2012 international arrivals to Peruvian airports increased by 17.98%. The first three months of 2013 saw almost 1.8m arrivals, a year-on-year ( yo-y) rise of 12.04%. National passenger arrivals rose by 17.04% from 2011 to 2012, while international and national air cargo grew by 10% and 2%, respectively. In the first three months of 2013 domestic passengers totalled 1.93m, an 18.33% increase y-o-y.
These growth figures are forcing airport operators to expand and improve facilities. According to Alberto Huby, former general manager at Aeropuertos del Perú (ADP), operator of Peru’s northern airports, the highly specialised nature of the aviation industry is another force behind the recent upgrades. “Our industry has to comply with international standards that become more demanding every day,” said Huby. “We need not just to expand our infrastructure but to incorporate global standards that allow us to be on par with international airports.”
Upgrading The Airport
According to Lima Airport Partners (LAP), passenger traffic as of September 2013 to the Jorge Chávez International Airport, the primary airport in Lima, was 11,050,064, an increase of 12.2% y-o-y. This followed a positive trend of 17% growth in 2010, 14.7% in 2011 and 13% in 2012. The airport has seen major growth since 2001 and has more than doubled its passenger traffic numbers since 2006. As a result, LAP, which serves as the concession holder for the operation of the airport, has developed plans for the construction of a second landing strip as well as a new airport terminal. LAP estimates that the expansion projects will require $800m in investment. In June 2011, the Ministry of Transport and Communications ( Ministerio de Transportación y Comunicación, MTC) approved LAP’s plans to utilise 190,000 sq metres of land near the current airport to construct a 3500-metre-long landing strip and a new terminal. The MTC had until February 2013 to negotiate with the community residing on the planned construction site and hand the land over to LAP. As of January 2013, leaders from across the transportation sector expressed to OBG their scepticism that the land handover would occur on time and without incident.
In March 2013, local press reported that plans to construct the Lima Airport’s second runway would be put on hold until 2020. This delay is due in part to the state’s failure to hand over 100% of the land needed to execute the project. It was also determined that the second runway would interfere with another major roadwork project involving the expansion of the nearby Gambetta Avenue. The state was, however, able to obtain 97% of the land needed for the project, allowing construction of the second terminal to continue as planned. Terminal construction is ongoing and expected to reach completion in 2016.
New Airport For Cusco
Cusco has long been in need of a new airport with a larger capacity. Giancarlo Villafranqui, the head of airport projects at ProInversión, the state agency that promotes private investment in Peru, told OBG that the government has been considering plans to develop a new airport for Cusco since the 1970s.
In 2010 the MTC assigned ProInversión the task of finding a consulting company to evaluate the airport project and determine if Chinchero, a nearby village of Cusco, would be an appropriate location for a high-volume airport. With the study completed, ProInversión was prepared to publish the project and begin searching for investors in 2011, but President Ollanta Humala’s election in the same year put the project on hold temporarily. After Humala came into office, ProInversión was asked to re-evaluate the proposed project. Finally, in August 2012, President Humala publicly announced plans to construct an airport in Chinchero.
The state plans on investing $460m in the project, added to the costs of compensating the farming community that is currently occupying the land where the airport will be built. ProInversión is also looking for a concessionaire to take charge of the construction and operation of the Chinchero airport. As of December 2013, the project was being advertised on ProInversión’s website with the estimated award date listed as February 28, 2014.
As land disputes have slowed down expansion plans for the Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, leaders from the transportation sector have expressed their concern that the Chinchero airport project could potentially encounter similar difficulties with the land handover process.
“The Cusco airport has reached its limits,” Arturo Delgado, the general manager of the National Association to Promote Infrastructure, told OBG. “This project must be done, but it is proposed for a populated area, which means that there will have to be dialogue with the local community.”
In hopes of easing the process of land acquisition, the MTC and national government have put the regional government of Cusco in charge of negotiating with community landholders. The idea behind this strategy is that the regional government will have greater credibility in the eyes of the community as well as a better understanding of local needs and cultures, and thus help facilitate negotiations.
Environmentalists have also expressed their concerns that locating an airport in Chinchero could cause damage to local cultural assets. As negotiations with the Chinchero community continue, local press recently reported that Cusco transportation authorities are considering Anta, another village in the Cusco Region, as an alternative site.
Regional Airport Improvements
While plans for the airports in Lima and Cusco are making headlines, there are also a number of works under way at regional airports. In 2012 ADP began construction on a new international airport in Pisco. The project required an investment of PEN153m ($57.62m) and is expected to reach completion over the next two and a half to three years. As a result of the expansion, the Pisco airport will be able to handle up to 400,000 passengers annually as of 2017. In the long run, Huby believes that given Pisco’s location between Lima and Cusco the airport could evolve to become a hub for low-cost carriers, which at present do not exist in Peru.
Up For Bid
Along with the construction of the new airport in Pisco, ADP will also be conducting bidding processes for several other projects in 2013. ADP’s Huby told OBG that the airport operator will be searching for construction companies to build new runways for airports located in the cities of Piura, Chiclayo and potentially Talara. ADP will also be searching for interested parties to conduct engineering studies for landing strip constructions in Huaraz, Pucallpa and Iquitos.
Along with these heavy infrastructure projects, ADP is working to integrate local culture to a larger degree into its airport operations. To this end, the operator would like to create art galleries to display local works in its airports. In Iquitos, for example, the main check-in desk is adorned with a mural from a prominent local painter.
Huby told OBG, “We are searching to promote the culture of the regions where we operate along with the modernisation of our airports.”
Meanwhile, Aeropuertos Andinos del Perú (AAP), which serves as the operator for regional airports in the south of the country, has also planned a series of investments. Principal among them are efforts to expand the Rodríguez Ballón International Airport in the second-largest city, Arequipa. Beginning in 2014, AAP plans to start construction on a second terminal, scheduled for completion in 2016. The terminal will require an estimated $80m in investment.
In addition to the challenges associated with land handovers, Huby and other leaders have identified the current bureaucratic processes embodied by the National System of Public Investments as a potential barrier to progress in aviation infrastructure (see overview).
Michael Patzl, manager of institutional relations for LAN Perú, the country’s leading air carrier, told OBG that LAN Perú would like to expand its operations in the country but is unable to do so due to infrastructure-related constraints. Huby concurred, stating that many of the country’s airports do not meet the minimal runway requirements that would need to be satisfied to accommodate a large international carrier like LAN Perú.
“The country grows, and the infrastructure must grow along with it,” said Huby. Indeed, if Peru hopes to support continuous growth in air cargo and passengers, the only solution will be to overcome these challenges and expand the sector’s infrastructure.