Quiport is overseeing infrastructure growth at the new Mariscal Sucre International Airport, coupled with route development and expanded non-aeronautical facilities

Lian Zhang

As one of the busiest airports in South America, the old Mariscal Sucre International Airport (MSIA) served the Ecuadorian capital Quito for more than half a century since its inauguration in 1960. At the end of its final year of operations, the airport handled approximately 5.3 million passengers and 178,822 tonnes of air freight – but there were numerous safety issues and capacity constraints due to its proximity to residential areas and the surrounding mountainous terrain.

high hopes for quitoFoto: Chris

Opened in February 2013, the USD750 million new MSIA provides significantly improved facilities, built and operated under a 35-year concession. The operator is Quiport, an international consortium comprising Canadian construc- tion company AECON, Canadian develop- ment company Airport Development Corporation, US airport operator HAS Development Corporation, an affiliate of Houston Airport Systems and Brazilian group CCR (Companhia de Concessões Rodoviárias). Quiport took over operation of Chris Chalk, aviation practice leader of Mott MacDonald and airport development advisor to the project, recalled the challenge faced by Quiport during the development period. “The main challenge was to build a greenfield airport in a geographically difficult area because the Tababela plateau is located in the middle of the Andes. Fortunately, we managed to bring together a very professional team with recognised Ecuadorian contractors and skilled workers.”

Compared to the old airport, the lower altitude (2,400 m compared with 2,808 m) and longer runway of the new MSIA make non-stop flights to Europe possible without the need for refuelling in Guayaquil due to payload constraints.

Andrew O’Brian, chief executive officer of Quiport, spoke to IHS Jane’s in late 2013 about the strategy behind the new MSIA, and its development plans. “We have in place several passenger and airport oriented key performance indicators including wait times at check-in, security and immigration, methods to improve service levels. “Our last and it showed several improvements, mainly in average waiting times which reduced compared to the results achieved in March 2013,” O’Brian said. “Having built a greenfield airport allows us to have better planning to grow according to the demand in an orderly way that ensures proper service levels in all areas.”

Quiport is also working closely with airlines and government departments to improve operational efficiency at MSIA. “From an operational perspective, Quiport has worked with the Civil Aviation Authority [Dirección General de Aviación Civil] to increase capacity by obtaining new minima for approaches and take offs under instru- ment conditions,” he noted.

During the first quarter (Q1) of 2013, international traffic grew by 12.8%, while in Q2 it increased by 7.5% compared to 2012. “In fact, we have broken a few [monthly] records since the opening of the new airport such as September, when our passenger base increased by 12.7%,” said O’Brian. “Our 2013 forecast indicates that we will close the year with total traffic growth in international passengers of about 10.3%.” However, domestic traffic has fallen back slightly, “mainly due to people adjusting to the new reality of the airport being located further away. Domestic traffic is [now] recuperating to its normal levels”.

Since the new MSIA opened, Quiport and its partners have ploughed more than USD70 million into development of an Airport City. Projects include: a new logistics centre to improve cargo operations; a Quito Airport Centre including a food court, extra commer- cial services and office space; a more than 600 m2 new International VIP lounge; expansion of the duty-free store for international departures from 230 m2 to 830 m2; a 5-star, 140-room hotel on a 20,000 m2 site; plus installation of runway centreline lights.

Indeed, Quiport is conscious that improving non-aeronautical facilities is essential for a modern airport, as travellers have higher expectations in terms of products and services. “As such, Quiport started to improve its retail and F&B [food and beverage] offering at the old airport,” noted O’Brian. “Now, with the new facilities, and under the commercial brand name Mall del Cielo, the airport has 23 stores with recognised brands. Additionally, there are two duty free stores located in International Departures and Arrivals areas. Our airport is the first one in Ecuador to have a duty free store in the arrivals area.” For Q3 2013, duty-free sales at MSIA surged by 684% year-on-year, while retail sales grew by 54% and F&B saw a 101% increase in turnover.

Infrastructure growth remains essential for MSIA’s success. “In fact, on 15 October 2013 Quiport announced the beginning of the construction works for Phase 2a with a total investment of USD15 million,” noted O’Brian. “This expansion includes a new area of 5,260 m2 and two new passenger boarding bridges. This will allow us to have 51% more passenger capacity during peak hour.” Phase 2a of MSIA also includes improve- ments for cargo operations – Quiport predicts potential growth of 28% during the key flower export season (Ecuador has a signifi- cant share of the international flower market). Also, certain cargo airlines plan to increase flight frequencies and are studying potential fleet changes to take advantage of the operational improvements at MSIA.

Vision for the future

“In terms of cargo, expansion includes an additional 14,000 m2, located on the south side of the current platform, and a connect- ing taxiway area of 13,754 m2. This area will have the capacity to park up to two Category E aircraft [B-747, B-777, A340].”

Asked about the long-term objectives for Quiport at MSIA, O’Brian described a “vision to be the leader in the airport industry of the country and the region, and at the same time, be an engine of social and economic develop- ment for Quito and Ecuador”.

In the medium term, he wants to trans- form MSIA into “an authentic airport city, being one of the most modern in the region”, while continuing to work on airline route development as the main driver to improve the connectivity of Quito and Ecuador.

Quiport supports the efforts by the Ecuadorian government to position Quito as an important destination point in South America. A crucial part of the strategy has been the implementation of a route develop- ment programme – Quiport has attended more than 10 route development events since 2008, discussing with airlines the possibilities to increase frequencies and implement new routes to and from Quito.

This work is already bearing fruit, and since MSIA opened several milestones have been passed. In June 2013, for instance, Ecuador- ian flag carrier TAME established a new route to Buenos Aires. Iberia began operating three non-stop flights to Madrid in October; Aeromexico inaugurated a new Quito-Mexico route in December; and KLM operates two more weekly frequencies. MSIA also hosted its first B-747-800 landing.

Other airlines to show interest include: Jetblue (which visited the airport in Novem- ber); Air Canada (a potential Toronto-Quito service); Air France (interested in operating to Quito in 2014); and American Airlines (interested in operating to Dallas from Quito).

The 35-year master plan for MSIA maps out further expansion in 2015, 2019 and 2023 – the document is updated regularly in line with the appropriate service levels for airlines and passengers. “This master plan includes the provision for a second runway for domestic flights once the demand requires such infrastructure,” O’Brian said. “Quiport reviews the master plan with the authorities to ensure improvements are done on a timely manner. As indicated, terminal expansion has already begun in October in order to better service domestic passengers.”

He emphasised that “social and environ- mental aspects” remain important within the context of a growing airport. MSIA is among the 12 finalists from Latin America and the Caribbean in the first edition of the 360 Infrastructure Awards, which recognise and promote social and environmental sustainability. The competition is promoted by the Department of Structured and Corporate Finance of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Reproduced with permission from IHS Jane’s / Reproducido con auorización de IHS Jane

Airport 360 http://www.ihsairport360.com/