GENEVA: April 09, 2018. IATA has reiterated its support for a new US$13 billion airport in Mexico City to replace the current facility that is “bursting at the seams”, handling 47 million passengers a year.

However leading presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador has threatened to cancel the project if he is elected Mexico’s next president later this year, claiming the contract award process is “corrupt”.

Last week the Mexican government’s airport company, Grupo Aeroportuario de la Ciudad de Mexico, floated a US$1.6 billion IPO to help pay for building the new airport that is being led by a consortium that includes Operadora Cicsa, a construction company owned by Mexico’s richest man Carlos Slim.

Longines Mexico to MIAA new IATA study says if the airport is not built it could mean 20 million fewer passengers per year, US$20 billion in lost GDP contribution, and 200,000 fewer aviation jobs in Mexico by 2035.

Currently, aviation contributes 2.9 percent to Mexico’s GDP and employs one million people according to IATA regional vice president for the Americas Peter Cerda.

In Chile last week IATA secretary general and CEO Alexander de Juniac said aviation plays an important role in the Latin America and Caribbean economy, employing five million people and supporting US$170 billion in GDP.

"We need effective infrastructure to accommodate growth; reasonable costs and taxes that don't kill it; and a modern regulatory framework that supports it," he said.

"Demand for air travel is outpacing both airport capacity growth and the upgrades to air traffic management systems. In the last decade the number of passengers carried by the region's airlines has more than doubled. And by 2036 we expect more than 750 million journeys will touch the region. Without concerted action today, we are headed towards a crisis," he continued.

IATA notes the region's key capacity challenges are in Buenos Aires, Bogota, Lima, Mexico City, Havana and Santiago. "Unless they are addressed, Latin American economies will suffer. If planes cannot land, the economic benefits that they bring will fly elsewhere," said de Juniac.

For a country of its size, IATA says Mexico underperforms in terms of its integration with the global air transport network and lags behind countries with much smaller home markets including Panama, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, and Chile.

"With its enormous local population, strong attractions for business and tourism, and geographic advantages, Mexico City has the ability to play a much bigger role on the world stage. But for that to happen, aviation infrastructure needs to be adequate and affordable, which is why it is absolutely vital that the new Mexico City Airport is built as planned," Cerda declared.

"Latin America and the Caribbean is an expensive place to do business. Taxes, fees, and government policies create a great burden. Today governments see aviation as a revenue source. But it is more powerful as a revenue catalyst. Reducing the costs of doing business will pay big economic and social dividends," de Juniac noted.

Pictured: Last week Emirates Sky Cargo flew 100 horses from Mexico City to Miami and then on to Shanghai via Liege for several stages of the Longines Global Champions show jumping tour.