President López Obrador’s plans to spend Sunday night at the hotel at Mexico City’s new airport have been thwarted: like much of the ground transportation infrastructure the new Holiday Inn isn’t ready.
The president had intended to wake up Monday morning at the hotel for its official inauguration.
Instead, he said Wednesday he will travel from the National Palace to Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) on Monday, taking the opportunity to demonstrate that the journey only takes 30-40 minutes from the center of Mexico City. The AIFA, which was constructed by the military, is built on an Air Force base in México state some 50 kilometers north of the capital’s downtown.
The president’s original plan to stay in the hotel, also built by the military, was scuppered after he found out the facility still didn’t have the required permissions and paperwork.
The 270-room hotel is owned by the military, but will be run as a concession by the U.S. hotel chain Holiday Inn.
“I’m definitely not going to stay there now,” López Obrador told Wednesday’s morning press conference. “The hotel is finished, but it isn’t certified … I’m going to sleep [in the National Palace] to show you that I can do the journey in half an hour.”
He told reporters he would see them at 7 a.m. at Monday’s press conference, which will be held at the airport.
He appended that it might take 40 minutes to arrive at the airport, providing himself 10 minutes of extra leeway.
Doubts have been raised about transport times to the airport due to incomplete road infrastructure and the lack of a rail link from central Mexico City.
The president also said that due to the electoral silence in advance of the revocation of mandate vote he wouldn’t make a speech at the inauguration ceremony or even cut the ribbon. However, López Obrador said that other officials would speak at the event.
More than a functional airport, López Obrador claimed that the work is one of aesthetic merit. “It’s a great airport. I even have my concerns, because they’re going to say, where was the austerity? … it really is beautiful, it is a work of the highest order of engineering,” he said.
The AIFA is aiming to serve 5 million passengers in 2024, a goal it needs to attain to break even, but it has so far been unable to lure any major foreign airlines. Only four airlines will initially use it and the only international flight will be to Caracas, Venezuela.
Its use may increase due to a scarcity of options for airlines after the government announced earlier this month that both terminals at the Mexico City International Airport — the biggest airport in Latin America — had reached the saturation point.
As one of the president’s flagship projects, there’s a lot riding on the success of the AIFA: he canceled the partially built airport in Texcoco, México state, after a legally questionable referendum held before he took office in late 2018.
With reports from Reforma and El Universal